As the most successful Chinese Super League club with six successive domestic titles under its belt, Guangzhou Evergrande is aiming to set a trend for the entire league: decreasing the number of foreign players signed while aiming to build an all-Chinese team by 2020.
Evergrande boss Xu Jiayin, a leading property development tycoon in China, announced the goal for his club in the new season at a pre-season motivational conference. The club aims to win quadruple titles in 2017, including trophies in the Asian Champions League and the Chinese Super League, and to build a competitive all-Chinese squad by 2020.
"Guangzhou Evergrande needs to be ambitious in the 2017 season, setting its sights on four titles, namely the Chinese Super League, Asian Champions League, CFA Cup and the Super Cup. For the players in Evergrande, I want you to keep in mind that you're all professional players, you need to have strict self-discipline in living, hard training on the pitch, make concerted and all-out efforts during matches and never lose your morale," said Xu in stipulating the targets for the 2017 season.
Xu explained that the club's plan for foreign player singings next year is to hire less, not more. Evergrande stand with five foreign players this season, including Colombian forward Jackson Martinez, Brazilian midfielder Paulinho, Brazilian strikers Ricardo Goulart and Alan, and South Korean defender Kim Young Gwon.
"In my view, the ideal all-Chinese squad for Evergrande is composed of a world top manager and all native players. We still have four years in the transition process. Meanwhile the all-Chinese lineup for Evergrande should be capable of winning titles, retaining the status quo," said Xu, adding that "Our purpose... is to contribute to the development of Chinese football and all our work needs to be focused on this."
The Chinese Football Association published a new policy for domestic leagues last month, allowing a maximum of three foreign players and at least two U23 Chinese players in the match-day roster, in order to bring down the massive amount of spending on non-Chinese stars and give more chances to local players.
Previously, four non-Chinese players could take the field at one time, including one from an Asian Football Confederation country. But the so-called "Asian quota" will be abandoned under the new policy.
"We have to be devoted to training young Chinese players. For teenagers from eight to 15, they need to train in the Evergrande football school and those older will train with the club," said Xu. "Compulsory exchanges and eliminations in different age categories have to be carried out from now on," Xu added.
Guangzhou Evergrande will also expand its rewards mechanism for players. 3 million RMB (440 thousand US dollars) will be awarded to the team for winning one match in the AFC Champions League and a two million RMB (300 thousand US dollars) prize will be awarded for a Chinese league match victory.
In terms of league titles, Xu says he hopes that Evergrande can match the record set by French club Lyon. "Lyon has won the French Ligue 1 seven consecutive times. If we can retain the Chinese Super League title this year, we'll be on parity with the Lyon's record and we'll break the record if we can continue to defend our championship," said Xu.
Xu also expressed his will to cut expenses and increase revenue at the club. "Our revenue comes mainly from tickets sales, which are not good enough to cover our expenses, and we have to run the club as a business. We need to increase our earnings through player exchanges and build up the team through young player training instead of buying."
Cash-rich Chinese clubs have recently made headlines for big signings in the transfer market. Chinese clubs broke the Asian transfer record five times in recent years, and the latest instance came in December when Shanghai SIPG reportedly paid Chelsea 61 million euros for Brazilian midfielder Oscar to link him up with his Brazilian compatriot Hulk.
Oscar's transfer was followed days later by Shanghai Shenhua's signing of Argentina striker Carlos Tevez for a reported fee of 90 million US dollars.
Other foreign players to join Chinese clubs in recent years are Renato Augusto (Beijing Guoan), Demba Ba (Shanghai Shenhua) and Ezequiel Lavezzi (Hebei China Fortune).
Oscar is said to be earning a weekly salary of almost 500,000 US dollars while Tevez's wage is reportedly 760,000 US dollars a week.