Zenit St Petersburg’s Brazilian international Hulk arrived in Shanghai on Wednesday to sign for Sven-Goran Eriksson’s Shanghai SIPG team, as the cash-flush Chinese Super League embarks on a new round of transfer spending.
A horde of cheering red-shirted fans mobbed the 29-year-old at Shanghai airport as he made his way through the arrivals halls carrying two bouquets of flowers.
Russian media have said Zenit would be paid around €55 million for his services. But according to posts on China’s Twitter-like Weibo, SIPG’s general manager Sui Guoyang has said the figure was “not that high”.
Website transfermarkt, which tracks dealings in the sport, put the fee at €58 million.
SIPG said on a verified Weibo account the “Incredible Hulk” would undergo a medical on Thursday, after which he would be officially signed, with a press conference to follow later.
The deal could break the Asian transfer record of €50 million, paid by Jiangsu Suning for Shakhtar Donetsk’s Alex Teixeira earlier this year in China’s world-leading transfer splurge.
President Xi Jinping has ambitions to make the Asian giant a footballing power. During the winter transfer window in January and February, Chinese teams broke the Asian transfer record four times in an acquisition spree that outstripped even the mega-rich English Premier League.
But the big spending did not pay off for all of them. Guangzhou Evergrande and Jiangsu Suning flopped in the regional AFC Champions League, a route to a coveted Fifa Club World Cup spot — while Shanghai SIPG are through to the quarterfinals.
Because Shanghai SIPG already have the maximum five foreign players, Hulk’s arrival would mean one would have to leave the club.
Shanghai SIPG are fourth in the Chinese Super League table but have struggled in recent matches and are winless in five games.
On Saturday they could only manage a 1-1 draw at home to mid-ranked Tianjin Teda.