McGowan ready for second coming in China's top flight

Australia defender Ryan McGowan believes he can take his game to another level as he prepares to face some of world football’s most deadly strikers in his second coming to the Chinese Super League.

Australia v Kyrgyzstan - 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualification

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And he will need to be with the Chinese market exploding since the 26-year-old centre-back's initial incarnation at Shandong Luneng, where he spent two seasons before returning to Scotland last year to join Dundee United.

Fast forward 12 months and his arrival at Henan Jianje will see McGowan pitting his wits against a bevy of big names including Jiangsu Suning’s $78 million man Alex Teixeira and $44 million capture Ramires, Guangzhou Evergrande’s $66 million Colombian Jackson Martinez and Shanghai SIPG’s $18 million striker Elekson.

With Gervinho and Fredy Guarin also making moves to CSL in January, and Paris Saint-Germain’s Argentine striker Ezequiel Lavezzi primed to sign for Hebei Fortune before the transfer window closes on 26 February, McGowan is facing some searching examinations this season. 

“China have made a global impact with some of the signings being made and it's definitely gone up a notch from when I was last there - and even then there were some big names," he said.

“It’s got people in world football talking. It’s only going to get tougher because every team will have two or three top foreign strikers… players who their team relies on to turn games.

“Almost every week you will come up against high quality individuals and that can only improve you as a player. 

"There are going to be some great individual’s battles, and I am going to be really tested. It’s something you enjoy."

McGowan sees no end in sight to the Aussie influx to China which already includes Tim Cahill, James Troisi, Trent Sainsbury and Michael Thwaite.

“They see us as solid professionals who do a job for clubs without costing the earth,” McGowan said.

“None of us are demanding the sort of prices they are paying elsewhere, and the Chinese see us as very reliable and a safe option.

“Winning the Asian Cup changed how we are perceived in places like China, and I wouldn’t be surprised if a few more ended up going.”

McGowan left a Tangerines side destined for relegation from the Scottish Premiership and happy to cash in on one of their top assets, with Henan paying $1 million for the defender, who had six months remaining on his contract.

“They were quite keen to keep me till the end of the season but Henan came in with a fair bit for me considering there wasn’t much time left on my contract," he said.

"In fact they were three bids and that showed how keen they were and how willing they were to get me on board.

“Dundee United picked me up on a free and its good money for them, so that makes the transition a bit easier.

"At the same time it would have been great to stay there and help them get out of the situation they are in.

“But they can use the money to maybe bring in a few players. Having played in China before I know a bit about what to expect and its exciting times for me and the competition.”

Henan finished fifth last year, but having been unwilling or unable to join the big spenders during the January window they could find themselves under pressure to repeat that feat when the season commences next month.

McGowan will do his best to help after signing a two-year deal.

“The clubs that have spent big will be looking to have that show on the table, but we will be looking to be there or thereabouts,” McGowan said. 

Predominantly a right back for his country, McGowan has been back in favour of late and will figure again for March’s FIFA World Cup qualifiers against Tajikistan and Jordan on home soil.

“The boss (Ange Postecoglou) knows what kind of player I am and what jobs I can do," McGowan said.

"It's probably been shown during this qualifying campaign that he plays me in certain games while in others he sees fit for another option.

“So long as I keep working hard and improving, there will hopefully be more international game time for me.” 

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4 min read
Published 13 February 2016 at 1:01pm
By David Lewis
Source: SBS