TIANJIN, China (AP) — Tianjin Tianhai has withdrawn from the Chinese soccer league and disbanded amid heavy debts only three seasons after former World Cup winner Fabio Cannavaro guided the club into the Asian Champions League.

The People’s Daily reported Tuesday that Tianjin had officially quit the league.

Tianjin’s future has been in doubt for more than a year since owner and founder of the Quanjian group, Shu Yuhui, was arrested on corruption charges.

Cannavaro was hired as manager in 2016 and led the club into the top league and later into qualifying for the continental club championship for the first time. The club spent heavily under Shu and brought in high-profile players such as Alexandre Pato and Axel Witsel.

After Shu’s arrest, the club was transferred to the local sports bureau and renamed Tianjin Tianhai.

Clubs in China have struggled financially because of the lockdown forced by the coronavirus pandemic, but Tianjin is the first team to fold.

Tianjin Tianhe will be replaced by Shenzhen FC.


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