It’s not always easy to track the comings and goings in the Chinese Super League.
Every window that striker who’s only scored three goals in 35 Premier League games moves to China for millions and everyone moans about it for a day or two before going on with their lives.
But what if we took the best imports and put them into one maverick formation? Funny you ask…
Slightly tricky to pick an imported goalkeeper, given Chinese Super League sides aren’t allowed to sign foreigners in this position.
Guangzhou Evergrande’s Zeng Cheng has been named Goalkeeper of the Year three times in the last five years, benefiting from the likes of Costel Pantilimon and Michel Vorm not flooding the league.
Shanghai SIPG’s Yan Junling is the new kid on the block. Well, he’s 27, but that’s almost newborn in terms of goalkeepers.
Elite foreign full-backs are hard to find in the Chinese Super League, so we’ve gone for a fashionable back three.
Shandong Luneng centre-back Gil moved to China from Corinthians in 2016, essentially ending his days with the Brazilian national team.
Javier Mascherano, who turns out for Hebei China Fortune these days, could carry on playing for Argentina for another decade given their lack of defenders.
Rounding off our back-three is Jiangsu Suning’s Gabriel Paletta, who Liverpool fans almost certainly won’t remember from three appearances during the 2007/07 Premier League campaign.
Jose Fonte played himself out of the team when he conceded eight goals on his Dalian Yifang debut.
When playing a classic 3-3-3-1 formation it’s important you’ve got three stable midfielders that would get Tony Pulis excited.
Even with that in mind, we couldn’t bring ourselves to pick John Obi Mikel. Instead we’ve gone with Renato Augusto, Ramires and Axel Witsel.
Beijing Guoan’s Augusto will be a key part of Tite’s plans with Brazil at the 2018 World Cup, unlike Jiangsu’s Ramires, who hasn’t added to his 52 caps since 2014.
Witsel’s international future is less clear since the Belgian moved to Tianjin Quanjian last year, but it’s not like Roberto Martinez is lacking in the midfield department.
Now we need a dash of flair. How does Yannick Carrasco, Oscar and Hulk sound?
We know Carrasco was part of Dalian’s 8-0 debacle but he’s far too good not to be getting in this team. That’s the price you pay for swapping Antoine Griezmann for Sun Gouwen.
Oscar and Hulk were both on the other side, playing for Shanghai, with the former helping himself to a hat-trick and the latter very unselfishly scoring just once.
If you’ve seen either play it can, at times, look like they’ve crashed an Under-16s game and are just showing off.
No place for Nicolas Gaitan, Alex Teixeira, Hernanes, Gervinho, Christian Bassogog or Ezequiel Lavezzi, which shows both the improving strength of the league and the fact Theo Walcott will always have a backup option.
Strikers Jackson Martinez and Cedric Bakambu have brought worldwide attention to the Chinese Super League in recent weeks for contrasting reasons.
Martinez, once the most expensive arrival in the league, was released from his contract at Guangzhou while Bakambu broke the African transfer record when he left Villarreal for Beijing Guoan.
He doesn’t lead the line for our side though. Neither does Brazil international Diego Tardelli or Graziano Pelle.
Instead we’ve plucked for Israeli Eran Zahavi, who followed up his Top Goalscorer and MVP campaign with a hat-trick in his first game of Guangzhou’s 2018 season.
Worth every yuan.
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