End of an era as Guangzhou FC's troubles force dramatic changes

 

It appears to be end of an era in Chinese football as reports suggest Guangzhou FC are set to terminate the contracts of all first-team coaches and players and field a team made up of purely youth team players in 2022.

Just two seasons ago, Guangzhou suffered a shock defeat at the hands of Jiangsu Suning for the 2020 Chinese Super League title - missing out on the chance to add to the eight titles the team had claimed between 2011 and 2019, but now it looks as if the future of the team has been decided before a single ball has been kicked in 2022.

Guangzhou were pioneers of the high-spending era in Chinese football, as well as the frontrunners and driving forces behind the naturalisation process that has seen many players, mostly Brazilian, earn Chinese citizenship and even play for the China national team.

They have had high-profile managers in the form of Marcello Lippi, Fabio Cannavaro and Luiz Felipe Scolari and were the truly dominant force in the Chinese Super League - even claiming two Chinese FA Cups (2012, 2016), four Chinese Super Cups (2012, 2016, 2017, 2018) and becoming the first Chinese club to win two Asian continental titles in 2013 and 2015.

But now, the club's severely diminished financial stability means that those glory days will remain firmly in the past as the club is forced to make the shocking decision to allow all first-team players and their higher paid coaches to walk for free before the new season.

This has also reportedly including club stalwart and current head coach Zheng Zhi, who has reportedly made the decision to step down from his role due to the financial restrictions placed on the club.

Reports out of China have stated that Guangzhou has set their 2022 season's budget at a paltry ¥15 million - not enough to cover many of the team's existing players' salaries, leaving the club with no alternative other than to promoted youth team players and part ways with current first teamers.

This means the likes of Wei Shihao, Yang Liyu, Liu Dianzuo and Liao Lisheng will all need to find new teams ahead of the 2022 season, joining the already departed naturalised players Ai Kesen, Gao Late, Luo Guofu, A Lan and Fei Nanduo, who all left in December.

This sudden clear-out of players should open many doors for other teams around the league, with some quality Chinese internationals now seeking opportunities elsewhere, with the likes of Shanghai Port, Beijing Guoan and Shandong Taishan set to enjoy the downfall of Guangzhou.

Wuhan Three Towns could also potentially be in play for midfielder He Chao, who would be a supremely welcome addition to the team if an agreement could be made between the two parties.

The money splurging era of Chinese football is long done, with the focus now being on survival after a two-year spell that has seen some big-name clubs dissolve, and Guangzhou, who will be prime favourites for relegation this season, could become the latest if no further investments are forthcoming - with little clarity on where Guangzhou Pharmaceutical's intentions lie after reports suggested they were deciding whether to invest in Guangzhou FC or rivals Guangzhou City this season.

If the reports come to fruition, it will be another dark day in Chinese football after some troubling years in recent memory, and serious changes will need to be made if there is any hope of salvaging the club and avoiding further situations like this to arise.

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