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Guangzhou's Zheng Zhi vows to return next season after title triumph

Guangzhou Evergrande captain Zheng Zhi has vowed to continue playing next season after helping steer his club to a record seventh straight Chinese Super League title.

Zheng, who turned 37 in August, watched from the stands on Sunday after injury ruled him out of the 5-1 thrashing of Guizhou Zhicheng that secured the title for the all-conquering club from southern China.

But despite his advancing age, the former Charlton Athletic and Celtic midfielder plans to carry on into a ninth season with the club.

"For me, I am also enjoying this moment and I want continue as long as possible," Zhang said. "I love this sport and hope to continue playing. But I also have respect for the game and I hope to maintain my physical condition."

Zheng played 17 times in the league campaign as Evergrande saw off the challenge of big spending Shanghai SIPG, who will finish second and are currently nine points behind Guangzhou with just two games remaining.

Andre Villas-Boas' side were tipped to push Guangzhou harder than they had been in previous seasons, and SIPG eliminated Evergrande from both the Chinese FA Cup and the Asian Champions League.

Zheng Zhi wants to return to Guangzhou Evergrande next season.

But the addition of Oscar for an Asian transfer record of €60 million from Chelsea in January could only lift SIPG from third last season to second this year while other big spending clubs such as Hebei CFFC and Tianjin Quanjian have been left to fight for places in next year's AFC Champions League

Guangzhou, meanwhile, held on to retain the domestic league crown despite the disruption caused by the sale of Paulinho to Barcelona in August and extend the club's remarkable run of success.

"I am so proud of all of us that we won this seventh title," Zheng said. "It is unbelievable that a team can win the trophy seven times in a row, we should be proud.

"None of the seven titles was easy, none. Every season we had our difficulties. However, we always fought as one, with solidarity, and this is our strength.

"This season people have been talking about how much other clubs invested and that they would be threatening Evergrande, but our target is simple: be ourselves.

"We are the strongest of all and we have one unified mentality. The achievement is natural, every year we got what we wanted."

Michael Church has written about Asian football for more than 20 years and mainly covers the Chinese game for ESPN FC. Twitter: @michaelrgchurch

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