Chinese champions Guangzhou Evergrande are set for swingeing changes and are likely to raid Europe for new signings as a sense of crisis envelops Fabio Cannavaro's dejected side.
Guangzhou have dominated the Chinese Super League (CSL) for nearly a decade, lifting seven consecutive titles and twice winning the AFC Champions League.
But under the Italian World Cup winner Cannavaro they have failed to win in six games, tumbling out of the Champions League and Chinese FA Cup, and are in danger of surrendering their CSL crown.
They are fifth in the league following a 2-0 defeat on Sunday at promoted Beijing Renhe and immediately afterwards owner Xu Jiayin signalled that his patience had run out.
Guangzhou Daily and Xinhua news agency cited Xu as saying that they would "adjust" the club's foreign stars and warned that older domestic players were also in danger in the cull.
Cannavaro, the Italian World Cup winner who took over as coach from the Brazilian Luiz Felipe Scolari in the close season, is not thought to be imminently facing the sack, local media said.
But the 44-year-old said he had not been told of the drastic transfer plans announced by Xu.
"But if the chairman decides to do it, we will definitely do it," Guangzhou Daily quoted Cannavaro as saying after the Beijing defeat.
"I thought it was going to be difficult at the beginning of the season, but I didn't think it would be this hard."
Brazilian winger Alan, attacker Ricardo Goulart and Serbian midfielder Nemanja Gudelj are the overseas trio currently favoured by Cannavaro.
Chinese clubs are restricted to three foreign players per match under Chinese Football Association (CFA) rules.
Guangzhou Daily said that Goulart or Gudelj are most likely to be axed and the club are looking at midfielders in Europe.
Guangzhou say that they are still committed to having an all-Chinese team eventually, in line with a government push to improve the fortunes of the perennially disappointing national side.
The CSL, with just over a third of the season gone, is now on hold for the World Cup and will resume on July 17.
The summer transfer window opens on June 18 in China.
© 2018 AFP