The Chinese Super League’s rule changes for the new season have been widely publicised, with the sudden implementation of increased restriction upon foreign players a shock following a winter of extensive transfer activity.
But it is the introduction of a new rule dictating that each side must start at least one player born in 1994 or later which could potentially have a bigger effect.
With a further under-23 player having to be on the bench, the aim is to give dramatically increased opportunities to the most talented of young players in a country which instinctively trusts experience above all else.
Henan defender Li Xiaoming was last season’s revelation of season, while Hebei CFFC youngsters Gao Zhunyi and Liao Junjian have also propelled themselves to the fringes of the national team through league performances. But few others were given the chance to shine.
Who, then, are the promising youngsters most likely to benefit from the change in CFA policy.
Club: Shanghai SIPG (probable)
China’s most talented youngster of recent years, with the exception of Vitesse forward Zhang Yuning, Wei’s career had been drifting in Portugal before a dramatic increase in playing time at Leixoes this campaign.
With the new ruling, though, his value back at home has rocketed and over the past 24 hours it appears Shanghai SIPG may have won the race to secure his services for the year ahead.
An athletic winger with a turn of pace and a selection of tricks, Wei has the natural ability to become an important player for China in the years ahead—as he was for the Under-19 and Under-22 sides.
Formerly of Atletico Madrid’s B-side, defensive midfielder Xu Xin made a slow start to his career at Evergrande last season making just five substitute appearances.
Now, though, with the implementation of new rules he will surely be first on the list of options to come into Luiz Felipe Scolari’s side as the seek to secure a seventh consecutive title.
While rarely seen since his return home, Xu was famed during his time in Spain for his range of passing and ability to control the game from the base of midfield. The reputation remains, but he must now prove it is based on more than just hype.
Suning just announced two new signs officially: center-back Yang Boyu and mid-fielder Gao Tianyi. pic.twitter.com/o9bedLomev
— JS Suning FC News (@suningfc) February 13, 2017
Club: Jiangsu Suning
One of the youngest players likely to get an opportunity this campaign, defensive midfielder Gao Tianyi recently joined Jiangsu from China League One side Shenzhen.
Having been a favourite of former manager Clarence Seedorf, Gao made 16 appearances in the second half of 2016. However, a downturn in results saw the Dutchman lose his job and Gao head for pastures new.
Tall, strong and combative, Gao has a strong set of physical attributes to compete at senior level and has shown maturity in his distribution skills. Should the rules continue long-term, Suning have a strong Under-23 option lined up for the next four years.
Club: Tianjin Quanjian
There is surely no better coach to learn your trade as a centre-back under than Fabio Cannavaro and that is the fortunate scenario in which former Sporting reserve Liu Yiming finds himself.
A regular in Quanjian’s promotion season, making 23 appearances, it is likely that the 21-year-old would have been first choice to drop out of the side to make way for new recruits had it not been for the changes in policy.
Now, thanks to the the CFA’s ruling, Liu will likely line up at centre-back alongside new signing Yang Shanping. Given the major shortage in Chinese defenders, he will be a talent Marcello Lippi will be eyeing closely for the years ahead.
China U22 player Tang Shi(唐诗) agreed to terminate his contract with Paços de Ferreira. Local sources say he will join Beijing Zhonghe Guoan. pic.twitter.com/OkUzo1kqkf
— hcPatrick (@hchcc) February 3, 2017
Club: Beijing Guoan
A former teammate of Wei Shihao at Shandong, left winger Tang boasted impressive statistics for Gondomar in last season’s Portuguese third tier, scoring 12 goals in 30 games.
A step up to the top flight with Pacos de Ferreira, though, saw his playing time reduced to nothing and the 22-year-old’s career risk grinding to a halt.
Brought back to China by a Beijing Guoan side looking for Under-23 options, he will likely combine with former Wolfsburg winger Zhang Xizhe and Brazil international Renato Augusto behind a centre-forward.
Club: Tianjin TEDA
One of a group of three bright attacking talents in the 1997 generation along with Vitesse’s Zhang Yuning and Real Madrid Castilla’s Lin Liangming, Yang Liyu has another young player who has spent recent seasons in Portugal.
Brought back from Gondomar on loan by Tianjin TEDA, Yang is a versatile forward capable of playing from the flank or as a second striker.
With good dribbling ability and an eye for a pass, it is easy to see why he is so highly rated among China’s youngsters. However, he will quickly need to adapt to the increased physicality playing in the Super League will demand.