GUANGZHOU - Guangzhou Evergrande, which this month returned to the top flight after winning the China League One title, already has its sights on the AFC Champions League.
Guangzhou, which was relegated to the second tier in February for its role in a match-fixing scandal, wrapped up the championship with a 3-1 home defeat of Hunan Xiangshou on Saturday. It edged out the runner-up, Chengdu Blades, by one point.
Having reclaimed its place in the Super League, the champion aims to win the continental title within five years.
"It has been a great season for Guangzhou soccer. We've achieved our goal and won the fans' support again," said Xu Jiayin, president of Evergrande Real Estate Group, which owns the club.
"Next year, our goal is to secure a top-six finish in the CSL. Hopefully we can finish in the top four, which means we will be qualified for the AFC Champions League.
"Our ultimate goal is to win the AFC championship title within five years. It sounds a little bit crazy, but we will make every effort to realize it."
The best showing by a Chinese team in the continental championship was by Dalian Shide, which reached the semifinals in 2003.
As part of the fallout from a nationwide investigation into match-fixing and gambling allegations, the Chinese Football Association relegated Chengdu and then-Guangzhou Pharmaceutical despite their finishing safely in mid-table. In March, Guangzhou was penalized for paying bribes in August and September 2006, while Chengdu did likewise in September 2007.
Qingdao Halifeng, then in the second division, was kicked out of the league entirely for its role in the scandal.