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Mascherano, Cannavaro, cash curbs as China season kicks off

Shanghai, Thursday @jameswaindi1

The new Chinese Super League season begins with the Guangzhou derby on Friday when Fabio Cannavaro’s reigning champions Evergrande host southern city rivals R&F.

But Chinese football has lost some of its lustre: Carlos Tevez is back in Argentina after his disastrous year at Shanghai Shenhua and new rules means Chinese clubs have not splurged on foreign talent as in previous years. Javier Mascherano has, however, arrived at Hebei China Fortune from Barcelona and the expensive Brazilians Oscar and Hulk will again lead Shanghai SIPG’s title assault.

Chinese football fans could be forgiven for being sceptical about Hebei China Fortune’s signing of Mascherano. The 33-year-old central defender’s career has been closely intertwined with his fellow Argentine Tevez, who was dubbed “very homesick boy” by disgruntled Shanghai Shenhua fans last year.

But Mascherano, the most eye-catching arrival in the winter transfer window, is no Tevez when it comes to attitude and could be smart business given the former Liverpool and Barcelona player’s wealth of experience.

Beijing Guoan’s drawn-out pursuit of striker Cedric Bakambu from Villarreal looks like having repercussions throughout the Chinese Super League (CSL). The Chinese FA last year imposed a 100 percent transfer tax on incoming foreign players and Guoan appear to have attempted to circumvent that rule.

The unamused Chinese FA will be determined not to let other teams follow suit. Amid all that, it’s easy to forget that Bakambu is a prolific goalscorer who will find CSL defences significantly more generous than those in Spain’s La Liga.

Italian World Cup winner Fabio Cannavaro steered Tianjin Quanjian into the AFC Champions League last season before quitting to take over from Luiz Felipe Scolari at Guangzhou Evergrande, who have won the CSL for the last seven seasons.

An eighth will be tough because Evergrande did not significantly strengthen in the close season. Early results for Cannavaro (pictured) have been mixed, drawing twice in the Champions League, including a 1-1 home draw with Thailand’s Buriram United. Evergrande did defeat Shenhua 4-1 in the Chinese Super Cup.-AFP

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