Brazilian soccer in China deepens

Updated: 2015-06-08 05:01

By JI YE AND MICHAEL PLACEin Rio de Janeiro (China Daily Latin America)

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Brazilian soccer in China deepens

Brazil World Cup-winning coach Luiz Felipe Scolari (right), who replaced Fabio Cannavaro as manager of Guangzhou Evergrande, signs a two-and-half year deal with Evergrande chairman Liu Yongzhuo during a signing ceremony in Brazil on June 3. [PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY]

Brazil soccer's presence in China got another lift when Brazil World Cup-winning coach Luiz Felipe Scolari moved to the Chinese Super League to be manager of Guangzhou Evergrande.

He follows in the footsteps of Brazilian international soccer stars Diego Tardelli, Goulart and former Brazilian league most valuable player Dario Conca.

With the club's announcement on June 4, Scolari replaced Italy World Cup-winning captain Fabio Cannavaro, who took over from his compatriot Marcello Lippi in December. Scolari, 66, signed a 2 1/2-year deal with the Chinese Super League champions just two weeks after quitting as manager of Brazil's Gremio amid poor results.

"We believe Scolari fits our club's strategy and ambition," said a top official of the club who asked not to be identified by name. "We also believe Scolari will make improvement not only on our club, but also on Chinese soccer. The reason for the change is the same as before. We always focus on the strategy instead of the results of games."

Guangzhou, winners of the past four Chinese Super League titles, has four Brazilians on its squad: Rene Junior, Alan, Elkeson and Ricardo Goulart.

Scolari, who also had also had coached Chelsea and Portugal, took charge of Brazil's national team for a second time in late 2012. He was let go after the Selecao's 7-1 World Cup semifinal defeat to Germany last July.

Brazilian media highlighted the country's growing influence on Chinese soccer after the announcement that Scolari will coach Guangzhou Evergrande.

"Having left Gremio in decline, [Scolari] is making an adventure into Chinese football, which already has several Brazilians," the Estado de S.Paulo newspaper said.

Folha de S. Paulo said Guangzhou had beaten off interest from other Asian teams for Scolari's signature.

"He was sought by Asian clubs, and even national teams, during his time as coach of Gremio," the newspaper said. "He didn't hide his desire to accept any good proposals. As soon as he announced his resignation from Gremio he was free to do that."

Under the headline "A new life", news portal Globoesporte praised Guangzhou's ability to sign a "succession of world champions".

Lippi was the coach of Italy's 2006 World Cup triumph and Scolari led Brazil to victory in Japan and South Korea 13 years ago.

According to statistics released by Germany's Transfer Market when the Chinese winter transfer window closed, the Chinese Super League spent a record 108 million euros ($120 million) to buy players and coaches on the 2014/2015 transfer market.

The Chinese league, which turned into professional 20 years ago, stands only second to the English Premier League in terms of money spent on transfers, beating most of the top-flight leagues around the world.

In the shopping spree, Brazilian players and coaches or players from the Brazilian league have become the most eye-catching and valuable transfers.

Besides Scolari, striker Tardelli became the first Brazilian national team player to be selected from a Chinese team and will compete at the upcoming 2015 Chile Copa America. The 29-year-old switched from Atletico Mineiro to China's Shandong Luneng with a transfer fee of 5.5 million euros, and reunited with his former Atletico head coach Cuca at his new club.

Former Brazilian league MVP Conca returned to China and joined Shanghai International Port (Group) Co (SIPG) club after only one year at Brazilian club Fluminense. He had three successful seasons with Chinese champions Guangzhou Evergrande. The 31-year-old is said to be unhappy at Fluminense due to a delay in payment of image rights.

However, Conca is no longer the focal point as his then record transfer fee of 9.1 million euros was easily beaten by Evergrande's recent payment of 15 million euros for Brazil international Goulart and 11 million for another prolific Brazilian striker Alan from Austria's Red Bull Salzburg.

The payouts brought attention, as well as pressure, as heavy-spending clubs try to make ends meet.