At the end of this month, CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying will finally get back underway. It’s been quite some time since we last saw our favorite cracks don country colors – last November to be precise – and much has happened in the months that followed match day four. Perhaps most importantly: China has seen a massive influx of Latin American stars reach its shores.
A dedicated soccer fanatic, Chinese President Xi Jinping has made it his goal to improve the superpower’s standing in the soccer world, in part by importing a new collection of Latin American soccer stars. Under his guidance (and in search of global soccer glory), a committee approved the “Overall Plan of Chinese Soccer Reform and Development” – which sees as its purpose developing all aspects of the sport, including building soccer infrastructure through local playing fields and major stadiums – and China’s Super League went on an epic January spending spree.
In the wake of this activity, a new question has emerged: do South American managers bring their players back for WC qualifiers? Is it really worth the jetlag? If so, will they really be able to produce to the best of their abilities?
Each team in China’s 16-member Super League is only allowed five foreign players. Today, nearly half of them are from Latin America. Colombia coach José Pékerman has a tough call to make with Guangzhou Evergrande’s Jackson Martínez – who signed for a record £32 million from Atlético de Madrid – and with Shanghai Shenhua’s Fredy Guarín. Early indications point to both missing out on the fun against Bolivia and Ecuador.
Argentina’s Ezequiel Lavezzi poses a perplexing problem for Gerardo Martino, who is must now decide whether or not to bring his offensive star home for a week from Hebei China Fortune, or favor younger, more easily accessible talent in Juventus’ Pablo Dybala and Atleti’s Ángel Correa.
Miller Bolaños was close to making it similarly difficult for Ecuador’s Gustavo Quinteros, but the latter advised the forward to make the move to Brazil and sign for Gremio rather than impair his international career in China.
Finally, Brazil’s Dunga sits on the opposite side of the spectrum, after already having decided to keep Renato Augusto and Gil in his squad this month, both of whom traded domestic champion Corinthians camisetas for Beijing Guoan and Shandong Luneng respectively.
While some of these studs might be role players, others have the power to greatly affect the outcome of CONMEBOL qualifying campaigns. Is the exhaustion worth the possible exaltation? Bring the boys back? Hit the comments and let us know.