SHANGHAI China's high-spending Shanghai Greenland Shenhua FC, spearheaded by expensive new signing Carlos Tevez, have apologised to fans after being dumped out of Asia's top club competition by Australian side Brisbane Roar.
Shenhua, managed by Uruguayan Gus Poyet and who also have Nigeria striker Obafemi Martins on their books, were beaten 2-0 in chilly conditions in Shanghai in their Asian Champions League final qualifying round clash on Wednesday.
"For the shame of today's result, we offer a sincere apology to all those fans who braved the bitter cold to come to the stadium and support Shenhua," the club said in a statement on its official microblog.
"The players all did their best, and we longed to win as much as you did, but sometimes soccer can just be this cruel."
Shanghai Shenhua finished fourth in the Chinese Super League last season, 16 points behind champions Guangzhou Evergrande.
Amid of flurry of high-profile transfers by Chinese clubs, Shenhua bought Tevez from Boca Juniors in December for a reported 84 million euros ($89.76 million) and made the 32-year-old the sport's highest paid player with a reported salary of $753,000 per week.
Tevez's arrival in Shanghai came hot on the heels of Brazilian midfielder Oscar joining local rivals Shanghai SIPG from Chelsea in a deal believed to be worth 60 million euros.
Graziano Pelle, Ezequiel Lavezzi and Jackson Martinez are all recent arrivals in China, while Shanghai SIPG manager Andre Villas-Boas is also on a lucrative contract since replacing former England boss Sven Goran-Eriksson.
With the backing of soccer fan President Xi Jinping, China has been on a spending spree on players, clubs and overseas assets over the last two years, raising hopes that domestic clubs and the national team could benefit.
However, the influx of marquee players into China and huge transfer fees has divided opinion, as well as prompting Chinese soccer authorities to tighten rules and stop clubs "burning money" on foreign talent at the expense of homegrown players.
China's national team coach stepped down in October last year after defeats to Uzbekistan and war-torn Syria left their bid to qualify for the 2018 World Cup in tatters.
Shenhua's fans vented their anger at the loss.
"It would be better to spend this huge money on stellar coaches than huge annual salaries for these players," said one fan in a post on Sina Weibo.
"The season hasn't even started yet and we're out of the Asian Champions League. The crowd is already losing hope."
($1 = 0.9358 euros)
(Reporting by Adam Jourdan; Editing by Greg Stutchbury)