Founded in 1954, the club, then known as Central-Southern White Team, was indeed among the traditional powerhouses in China's football. They were the pioneers when the country started the first professional league in 1994, earning the runners-up spot in the inaugural season. Despite the ups and downs over the next decade and half, during which they twice suffered relegation, Guangzhou rallied and sealed return to the top flight in 2010. Reformed and renamed, as Guangzhou Evergrande, the club entered a new era. With the new owner's strong financial support, the new-look club took the Chinese Super League by storm as they won the title at a canter – the first time for a newly-promoted side.
The club continued their fast growth with star recruitments last year and appointed Marcello Lippi as the new coach. Under the Italian, they successfully retained the C-League title a year ago, while reaching the last eight in the AFC Champions League. This season saw Guangzhou unstoppable on both domestic and Asian fronts. They dominated the C-League throughout and completed a hat-trick of crowns with three games to spare. On the continental scene, Lippi's side went all the way through to the AFC Champions League final, where they edged K League champions FC Seoul to reign Asian supremacy.
As a vastly-experienced and hugely-successful manager, Lippi has proved his class not only in tactical approach but also selection of promising stars. Shortly after his arrival, he signed Korea Republic defender Kim Younggwon and Chinese midfielder Huang Bowen – both of whom have figured prominently in Guangzhou's all-counquering campaign this year. He brought in Elkeson from Botafogo at the start of this season and the 24-year-old Brazilian hot-shot emerged as the revelation of the C-League, finishing as top-marksman with 24 goals. Besides, the ambitious club are aiming for long-term development, establishing a youth academy named "Evergrande-Real Madrid Football School" thanks to a partnership with the Spanish giants.
On the back of their quarter-finalist finish last year, Lippi's outfit entered their second continental appearance targeting no less than Asian silverware. They finished group winners to progress to the Round of 16, in the process twice drawing against 2006 champions Jeonbuk Motors. Their form in the knockout phase was even more impressive, with six consecutive victories, including a dominant 8-1 aggregate victory over Kashiwa Reysol in the semi-finals. FC Seoul may have twice fought back to draw against Guangzhou – first to 2-2 at home and then 1-1 away – but it was the Chinese side that ran out victors on away goals.
The numbers game
36 - The number of goals which Guangzhou racked up across 14 matches en route to the AFC Champions League title, a tally which saw them finish as this campaign's top goal-scorers.