Chinese media question Guangzhou’s $65m striker

With Guangzhou Evergrande striker Jackson Martinez failing to impress so far, Chinese media are already criticizing the $65m signing. But Ricardo Goulart remains a clear threat when the Chinese powerhouse face Sydney FC on Wednesday night in the ACL.

Evergrande are the reigning AFC Champions League (ACL) winners but have arrived in the Harbour City to play Sydney FC with a cloud hanging over Luiz Felipe Scolari’s expensive pre-season recruit, which could give the Sky Blues an advantage.

Evergrande’s scoreless draw at home against Pohang Steelers last week was the first time in five years that the Chinese Super League (CSL) club have failed to win their ACL group stage opener.

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With Martinez up front, Evergrande managed just two shots on target, prompting early criticism of the Colombian centre-forward, who managed just two league goals in 15 appearances in his one season with Atletico Madrid.

“While having to play their first match in an empty stadium wasn’t underrated in their draw with Pohang, the form of their big-signing Jackson Martinez was unanimously questioned by the Chinese media,” ex-Goal China editor Shao Zhijie told Goal Australia.

Jackson Martinez.

“Titan Sport described that match as Scolari’s ‘failed experiment’, as the whole team was a tactical failure on that day.”

Martinez, 29, also failed to score in Evergrande’s 2-0 triumph over Jiangsu Suning in Saturday’s Chinese Super Cup, with Brazilian forward Ricardo Goulart notching a brace.

Goulart was in Martinez’s position last year as Evergrande’s flagship signing and lived up to expectations with 19 goals and 15 assists, as Scolari led the club to their fifth straight CSL championship.

The Brazilian joined Evergrande from Cruzeiro.

“In terms of statistics, the 24-year-old attacking midfielder was the most valuable player in the club’s attacking section in 2015,” Shao said. 

“In all the league games last season where Goulart has scored or created goals, Guangzhou Evergrande never lost once. He’s the kind of player who step forward when the team seems stuck.

Ricardo Goulart.

“His brace in the 2-0 win against Jiangsu Suning in the Chinese Super Cup just proved that he continues to be the team’s game winner – until Martinez proves his value, at least.”

Goulart will be expected to play in behind Martinez against the Sky Blues on Wednesday nigh.

Scolari’s side have yet to concede in two competitive matches this season, which is an improvement on their defensive efforts in 2015.

Evergrande conceded 28 goals in 30 CSL matches last term – almost a goal per game – while they let in 14 goals in as many games as they lifted the ACL trophy.

“It’s certainly going to be a tough match for the reigning champions,” Shao said.

“But the good news is that Goulart remains reliable.

Guangzhou Evergrande players pose for a team photo prior to last week's ACL clash with Pohang Steelers.

“If they don’t concede early and Goulart continues his good form, they can take the three points needed.”

In two competitive matches, Evergrande have notched a win and a draw, with their CSL campaign set to begin away to Chongqing Lifan on Sunday.