August 1, 2019 / 10:53 AM / 23 days ago

Chinese clubs focus on run-in after Real dominated window

HONG KONG (Reuters) - Even before the Chinese Super League’s mid-season transfer window swung open at the start of July, Real Madrid were dominating the news agenda in a manner only Europe’s most successful club can manage.

FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - La Liga Santander - Real Madrid v Eibar - Santiago Bernabeu, Madrid, Spain - April 6, 2019 Real Madrid's Gareth Bale reacts REUTERS/Javier Barbancho/File Photo

By the time Gareth Bale was hogging the headlines throughout the final two weeks of the month-long speculation-fest, Sergio Ramos had long since distanced himself from feverish rumours he was on his way to the ubiquitous ‘unnamed Chinese club’.

But, as the curtain came down on a window that predictably yielded fewer big name transfers than anticipated, Real had been unable to offload either of their aging and highly paid stars and Chinese clubs were resetting their focus on the final stages of the domestic season.

Not surprisingly, it was Bale’s proposed move to Jiangsu Suning on a rumoured £1 million-a-week pay packet and the ensuing saga that captured the headlines.

The collapse of the deal two days before the window’s closure overshadowed a window that was among the most active in recent seasons.

A 100 percent levy placed two years ago on all foreign transfers valued at over £5m had stymied the market, leaving clubs to seek ways to circumvent the new rules with loan deals and other creative approaches.

Those attempts, however, seem to have been put to one side this year, with Marko Arnautovic’s £23 million arrival at second-placed Shanghai SIPG from West Ham United the headline signing of the summer.

The Austrian has made an immediate impression, scoring in each of his first two games despite not being fully fit after joining the defending champions directly from his post-season break.

According to Chinese outlet Titan Sports, around €100 million (£91.18 million) in transfer fees was spent by 14 of the 16 Chinese Super League clubs from the opening of the window until its closure on Wednesday.

That represented a 60 percent rise, Titan claimed, on the sums spent in the corresponding summer transfer window 12 months ago, when clubs forked out €63.6 million.

Perhaps the biggest move of the window, though, came on the sidelines rather than on the pitch.

Beijing Guoan replaced coach Roger Schmidt with Frenchman Bruno Genesio, despite the club being in a strong position to challenge for their first Chinese Super League title in a decade.

Schmidt led Beijing to 13 wins in their first 14 games of the season, a run which saw them occupy pole position in the standings. But three losses in their last six games, coupled with exits from the Asian Champions League and the Chinese FA Cup saw the board wield the axe.

Genesio will look to reinvigorate the team when he takes charge of his first game on Friday evening as Beijing take on Hebei CFFC as they look to close the four-point gap on leaders Guangzhou Evergrande as the league enters its final 10-game stretch.

Reporting by Michael Church, Editing by Amlan Chakraborty

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