Crisis club Tianjin Tianhai quits China Super League

AFP
CSL club Tianjin Tianhai, once home to Brazilian star Alexandre Pato and formerly coached by Fabio Cannavaro, has effectively folded after teetering on the brink for months.
AFP
Crisis club Tianjin Tianhai quits China Super League
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Brazil striker Alexandre Pato, who also played for AC Milan, was on Tianjin Tianhai's books.

Chinese Super League side Tianjin Tianhai, once home to Brazilian star Alexandre Pato and formerly coached by Fabio Cannavaro, has effectively folded after teetering on the brink for months.

At least a dozen clubs in China's top three tiers of professional football have gone under in the last six months, but Tianjin is the first from the CSL.

The team from China's northeast, which was reportedly saddled with heavy debts, is set to be replaced in the top division by Roberto Donadoni's Shenzhen FC.

Tianjin on Monday submitted an application to withdraw from the CSL for the forthcoming season, Beijing News and other domestic media reported.

"Tianhai drama ends!" said the newspaper.

The new CSL campaign was supposed to begin on February 22 but was indefinitely postponed by the coronavirus pandemic. The league could now start in late June.

It has been a swift fall from grace for Tianjin.

Then called Tianjin Quanjian, it qualified for the AFC Champions League by finishing third in the CSL in 2017 under Italian World Cup-winning captain Cannavaro. The former international defender is now coach of defending CSL champion Guangzhou Evergrande.

The club had spent heavily in bringing in former AC Milan starlet Pato, Belgian international midfielder Axel Witsel and French striker Anthony Modeste.

It was also strongly linked with then-Chelsea striker Diego Costa.

However, Quanjian Group's founder was arrested in January last year and the club was transferred to the local sports bureau and renamed Tianjin Tianhai.

The club's fans thought they had been saved when Vantone stepped in to take over in March.

However, Beijing News said that negotiations with the real-estate investment company broke down.

Tianjin just about survived relegation last season, coming four points above Shenzhen and condemning Donadoni's side to the drop.

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