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Tevez turns it on

By Ji Ye | Xinhua | Updated: 2017-03-09 07:21

Argentine shines in opener on mixed weekend for CSL's foreign brigade, writes Ji Ye.

The world's best-paid player, Carlos Tevez, went a little way to justifying his staggering wage packet in his Chinese Super League debut on Sunday, but not every expensive import translated into instant success on the opening weekend of the new CSL season.

Argentine Tevez, reportedly earning a cool $750,000 a week following his $84 million move from Boca Juniors in December, converted a penalty and set up two goals as Shanghai Shenhua romped to a 4-0 victory at home to last season's runner-up, Jiangsu Suning.

Chinese clubs spent a record $412 million during the winter transfer window, surpassing the English Premier League to become the world's highest-spending circuit for the second straight year.

Tevez turns it on

Argentine star Carlos Tevez scored just 35 minutes into his Chinese Super League debut as Shanghai Shenhua thumped Jiangsu Suning 4-0 last Sunday. [Photo/VCG]

However, many of the pricey foreigners fell flat.

Tianjian Quanjian, coached by Italy's 2006 World Cup winner Fabio Cannavaro, boasted Belgium international Axel Witsel and Brazilian Alexandre Pato among its ranks but still slumped to a 2-0 loss at Guangzhou R&F on Saturday.

Despite starting with the attacking talents of Brazilian former Juventus star Hernanes and Uruguayan ex-Paris Saint-Germain forward Ezequiel Lavezzi, Hebei China Fortune failed to break down Henan Jianye in a 0-0 stalemate in Zhengzhou on Sunday.

Among the league's other big-money imports, Brazilians Paulinho and Elkeson turned in match-winning displays.

Former Tottenham midfielder Paulinho bagged a brace as Luiz Felipe Scolari's Guangzhou Evergrande kicked off its title defense with a 2-1 win on Sunday over visitor Beijing Guo'an, for which Turkey international Burak Yilmaz replied.

Elkeson, signed from Evergande in January 2016, fired a hat-trick as Shanghai SIPG walloped Changchun Yatai 5-1.

SIPG splashed $73 million on playmaker Oscar in the winter, and, ominously for the Shanghai side's rivals, the former Chelsea playmaker is already gelling with fellow Brazilians Hulk and Elkeson.

It was a third straight victory for SIPG, following triumphs in their opening two Asian Champions League matches.

With the arrival of world-class talent, the CSL's profile continues to grow. This season, league games will be televised in 96 countries and regions including Britain, Brazil, France and Belgium - an increase of 25 over last year.

There was good news on the attendance front, too, with the meeting of traditional rivals Guangzhou and Beijing boasted a record crowd for an opening fixture of 47,998.

The Chinese Football Association (CFA) pegged total attendance at 203,267 - an average of 25,400.

Tevez turns it on

Top: Shanghai SIPG's record-breaking signing Oscar shines as a playmaker during his CSL debut last Saturday, inspiring his team to a 5-1 thumping of Changchun Yatai. Apart from the foreign stars, some local players also impressed in their CSL season-openers, like U-23 player Tang Shi (middle) of Beijing Guo'an and Shanghai SIPG's Wu Lei (above). Photo by Fan Jun and Liu Dawei / Xinhua and Provided to China Daily

Homegrown hope

In an attempt to reduce the feverish spending on foreigners and encourage homegrown talent, the CSL introduced a new policy this term allowing a maximum of three foreigners and at least one under-23 Chinese player in the starting XI.

Previously, the foreign quota was four and it was not compulsory for an under-23 player to start.

While former Manchester United and Manchester City striker Tevez hogged the limelight, the new rules at least had some effect.

Chinese players netted five of the 19 goals in the weekend's eight matches. Last season, every game but one on opening weekend had foreigners on the scoresheet.

Some Chinese also turned in eye-catching performances.

Shandong Luneng's 24-year-old Liu Binbin broke the deadlock in a 2-0 win over Tianjin Teda, while Guangzhou R&F goalkeeper Cheng Yuelei frustrated Quanjian's ex-AC Milan ace Pato with four fine saves.

Tang Shi, 22, impressed on left wing for Guo'an at Evergrande.

The foreign quota also meant Nigerian international Anthony Ujah of Liaoning Shenyang Carsing sat in the stands during his team's 1-1 draw with Guizhou Hengfeng.

However, some under-23 hopefuls only managed 20 or 30 minutes on the pitch before being substituted.

In Friday's 1-1 draw between Guizhou Hengfeng and Liaoning Shenyang Carsing, under-23 Liaoning player Wang Qiao was pulled after just 16 minutes.

Li Lipeng, deputy director of the executive board of the CFA Professional League, said no one expected the new policy to cause a major change overnight.

"Our new policy is not meant to have an effect immediately, but to provide general guidance to the league," said Li.

"We want the policy become a catalyst for strengthening Chinese soccer's youth training system. We will try to minimize the side effects of the new policy."

Six-time champion Evergrande has already attempted to set a trend for the league, decreasing the number of foreigners while aiming to build an all-Chinese team by 2020.

The writer is a sports writer at Xinhua News Agency

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