Shenhua vs SIPG: How will Shanghai's CSL clubs fare in 2017?

Big names, big money, big rivalry

There is no doubting that the Chinese Super League (CSL) is on the ascendancy. With all the money floating around in the Chinese game, it’s no surprise that star names are leaving Europe and seeking their fortune out East. While the CSL is currently seen more as a thorn in the side of clubs from the European leagues rather than a threat, when it comes to spending on top players (last year an unnamed Chinese club reportedly approached Real Madrid with an offer for Ronaldo in excess of 2.1 billion RMB), money is definitely no issue.


Obafemi Martins celebrates one of his two goals vs Guangzhou Evergrande last season (Twitter: @ChineseFooty)

Nowhere has the topic of excessive spending on foreign players been more of a talking point than here in Shanghai, after two huge names joined the city’s respective CSL clubs for the 2017 season. Argentinian Carlos Tevez signed for Shanghai Shenhua in a deal that made him the world’s highest-paid player – and prompted the government to consider capping how much Chinese clubs spend on players, as well as reducing the number of foreigners each club fields – while 25-year-old Brazilian star Oscar joined Shanghai SIPG from English Premier League leaders Chelsea.

With two South American stars now plying their trade here – along with some exciting local talent – 2017 looks to be a big year for football in Shanghai. But who are you going to support? With top insights from Cameron Wilson of Wild East Football here’s everything you need to know.

Shanghai Greenland Shenhua FC

Manager Gus Poyet
Stadium Hongkou Football Stadium (33,060)
2016 finish Fourth
2017 prediction Fourth
AFC Champions League Group N/A
Star names Carlos Tevez, Demba Ba, Obafemi Martins

tevezTevez is mobbed upon arriving in Shanghai (Instagram: @fifaworldcup)

The lowdown

Having played in the top division of Chinese football in all but one season of their 65-year history (they were relegated in 1980 and immediately promoted again in 1981), Shanghai Shenhua are the city’s most successful club. They have three league titles to their name (they were stripped of a fourth in 2003 after being found guilty of match-fixing) and have qualified for the group stages of the AFC Champions League five times, but didn’t make the cut for the 2017 campaign after losing out to A-League side Brisbane Roar in the final round of qualifying.

The club made headlines across the globe by signing striker Carlos Tevez from Boca Juniors back in December, having previously attracted the likes of Didier Drobga and Nicolas Anelka with big money offers. With Tevez now in their ranks and another former Premier League striker, Demba Ba, potentially back in the mix in May following his loan spell at Besiktas after injury last season, Shenhua are shaping up to be one of the CSL’s most potent attacking forces in 2017.

March CSL fixtures

Sunday 5 Home vs Jiangsu Suning, 7.35pm.

Saturday 11 Home vs Tianjin Quanjian, 7.35pm.

Wild East knowledge drop

'Shenhua are a little bit lacking in the domestic player department and new coach Gus Poyet faces a challenge to better last season’s finish. Tevez is replacing Demba Ba who is recovering from a broken leg. They are very different players, but expect Tevez to be a hit.

‘Local lad Cao Yunding is something of legend with the fans – his goal celebration in the Shanghai Derby last year was one of the few times you knew a player kissing the badge wasn’t fake. His creative vision and quick passing led him to be in the CSL’s top three assisters last year. Behind him on the left is Bai Jiajun. He’s a mere 1.65 metres tall but is the most hardworking left-back in the league.’

Star power: Carlos Tevez


Age 33

Nationality Argentinian

International caps 76 (13 goals)

Approximate salary 273.7 million RMB

Bio Carlos Tevez can boast an impressive trophy cabinet including Champions League, Premier League and Serie A winner’s medals, as well as Olympic gold. Reportedly earning the equivalent of the average Shanghai salary every four minutes, there’s a lot of pressure on him to prove himself worthy such an astronomical wage.

Shanghai International Port Group (SIPG) FC

Manager André Villas-Boas

Stadium Shanghai Stadium (56,842)

2016 finish Third

2017 prediction Second

AFC Champions League Group F

Star names Oscar, Hulk, Ricardo Carvalho

hulkHulk in AFC Champions League action vs FC Seoul (Twitter: @shanghai_sipg)

The lowdown

Founded on Christmas Day 2005 as Shanghai Dongya, SIPG currently hold the bragging rights in the city’s footballing circles having finished one place above Shenhua last season. They also notably reached the quarter-finals of the AFC Champions League, losing to eventual winners Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors of Japan.

Then known as Shanghai Tellace, SIPG won promotion to the Chinese Super League in 2012 and marked their first season in the top flight with a ninth place finish – one position behind Shenhua. Buoyed by the additions of Oscar and veteran defender Ricardo Carvalho, SIPG will be on the hunt for silverware this season to justify their off-season spending and to try and confirm their position as the city’s premier team.

March CSL fixtures

Saturday 4 Home vs Changchun Yatai, 7.35pm.

Friday 10 Home vs Yianbian Funde, 7.35pm.

Wild East knowledge drop

‘SIPG under-achieved last year, finishing third only due to Shenhua running out of gas at the end of last season and dropping silly points. This year the expectation will be upon their shoulders to challenge Guangzhou Evergrande for the title like they did in 2015. “Only Shenhua rep Shanghai” is the famous banner Shenhua fans took to SIPG’s ACL games in Japan and Australia last year, so SIPG are itching to shove this slogan (which went totally viral) back in their rival’s faces.

‘In terms of Chinese talent, Wu Lei is China’s top forward and a very quick and skillful player on his day, if not a bit of a ball hog. Local Shanghainese star Cai Huikuang is SIPG’s midfield enforcer. He’s a big lad who is not afraid to get stuck in and has great passing and distribution.’

Star power: Oscar


Age 25

Nationality Brazilian

International caps 47 (12 goals)

Approximate salary 174.8 million RMB

Bio Oscar dos Santos Emboaba Júnior (or Oscar for short) is one of the latest big-name players to leave Europe for China. The Brazilian forward did the Premier League and League Cup double with Chelsea in 2014/15, a halcyon season that also saw him score the club’s Goal of the Season versus Queens Park Rangers in November. Oscar impressed on his competitive SIPG debut, finding the net during the AFC Champions League qualifying victory over Sukhothai.

You can follow Cameron Wilson and Wild East Football on Twitter at @CameronWEF and @wildeastfootbal.