Reports over the weekend suggested that Italy legend Christian Vieri is contemplating coming out of retirement to play in the Chinese Super League.
The striker was a legend in his day, so much so that he was included in the FIFA 100, a list of the 125 greatest living footballers selected by Pelé as a part of FIFA’s centenary celebrations.
However, does the 43-year-old still have what it takes to shine at the top? The Chinese Super League may not have been the highest quality league in years gone by, but as our best XI suggests, it’s certainly no footballing backwater now…
Goalkeeper: Cheng Zeng (Guangzhou Evergrande)
Guangzhou Evergrande are 10 points clear at the top of the league standings, and having a miserly defence is one of the key factors behind this. Zeng has conceded just 12 goals in 20 matches, an incredible record. The China international is a top, consistent performer for the defending champions.
Defender: Stephane Mbia (Hebei China Fortune)
The Cameroon international has settled well since joining Hebei China Fortune in January. Having played in the Premier League with Queens Park Rangers, and in La Liga with Sevilla, it should come as no surprise that the centre-back is making his mark in China.
Defender: Hong Jeong-ho
The 26-year-old raised a few eyebrows last month when he swapped the Bundesliga for the CSL. It’s still early days for the Korea Republic defender, but initial signs suggest he’ll thrive in China.
Defender: Ersan Gülüm (Hebei China Fortune)
The Turkey international has acquired Australian citizenship so that he doesn’t count towards Hebei China Fortune’s foreign quota, a bonus for the newly-promoted side who are doing sitting comfortably in the top six on the standings.
Defender: Rong Hao (Guangzhou Evergrande)
The left-back has spent his entire career in China, coming through the youth ranks with Wuhan Guanggu before moving first to Hangzhou Greentown and then Guangzhou Evergrande.
With eight pieces of silverware already to his name with Guangzhou, Rong Hao looks set to add a fifth league title to his name this season.
Midfielder: Renato Augusto (Beijing Guoan)
The the captain of the Brazilian national team who did duty at the recent Copa America plies his trade in the CSL is a statement in itself. The 28-year-old has not quite met expectations since arriving in China, struggling to assert himself in a Beijing Guoan that is in the bottom half of the table, but there is certainly more to come from the former Leverkusen and Corinthians player.
Midfielder: Ramires (Jiangsu Suning)
After six years with Chelsea it came as quite a shock when Ramires traded London for China, but he certainly wasn’t the last to make a big-money move in January.
The midfielder cost Jiangsu a reported £25 million and, a four-game ban for confronting a referee aside, has made a positive influence in the middle of the park with his aggressive approach.
Midfielder: Paulinho (Guangzhou Evergrande)
Paulinho’s switch from Tottenham to Guangzhou just over a year ago seems almost a lifetime ago, and the midfielder has grown into his role at the CSL champions. The Brazilian has been one of the driving force’s in Luiz Felipe Scolari’s side’s dominant showing in the league this season.
Attacking midfielder: Alex Teixeira (Jiangsu Suning)
The Brazilian made a slow start to life in China, but has begun to look more like a man worthy of a €50 million price tag since Choi Yong-soo replaced Dan Petrescu. The former Shakhtar Donetsk man’s versatility is a real plus for Jiangsu and is one of the reasons he is so valuable.
Striker: Gervinho (Hebei CFFC)
One could be critical and say that with three of goals to his name, the former Arsenal player does not score enough, but in a league full of superstars the hard working Gervinho deserves a lot of credit.
If the Ivory Coast international can turn more of his industry into goals, he could rise to the top of the pile. Despite this, he still gets into our side ahead of Jackson Martinez who has yet to live up to his reputation.
Striker: Demba Ba (Shanghai Shenhua)
Ba’s season is unfortunately over after he suffered a horror leg break last month that raised doubts about whether he would be able to return to action. An injury of such a nature is always a blow, but having grabbed 14 goals, nearly half the number Shanghai Shenhua have managed, Ba tops the goal-scoring charts after a strong start to the season.