A sad end to an ill-fated spell: Belgian star Yannick Carrasco bids farewell to China

Yannick Ferreira Carrasco of Atletico de Madrid controls the ball during the Liga match between Club Atletico de Madrid and Real Sociedad at Wanda Metropolitano on July 19, 2020 in Madrid, Spain.

When La Liga giants Atletico Madrid broke the news to their fans via Twitter on Tuesday that they have taken up the option of making Yannick Carrasco's loan deal from Dalian Pro permanent, no one raised an eyebrow.  

The move is perfectly logical and expected. 

The Belgian star's temporary switch to Spain in January indubitably brought out the best in him as the 27-year-old's impressive performances helped Atletico finish third in La Liga despite squad overhaul last season and reach the quarter-finals of the coronavirus-disrupted Champions League campaign. 

However, for Chinese fans, Carrasco's high-profile departure would be inevitably tempered by a tinge of disappointment and sadness. 

Dalian were expecting big things from the technically creative winger when the aspiring newly-promoted side shocked the footballing world by splashing out big money to bring him to the Chinese Super League in 2018.

Alas, Carrasco never quite settled in China. What he treasured most at Dalian – stability, like-minded teammates, a coach who had a coherent tactical plan – was not there. 

The nightmare debut which he saw his new team concede eight goals as Shanghai SIPG ran rampant in a completely one-sided game evidently didn't help either. 

It remains weirdly hard to assess Carrasco's two seasons at Dalian because of his regrettable attempt to fit a square peg into a round hole. 

He was manifestly a genuine treat to watch and served as a driving force at the sharp end of Dalian's sporadic waves of offense, notching 24 goals and 17 assists in 52 appearances. 

Yet at the same time, he always looked below his best level. As is so often the case, he could be seen standing slightly away from his teammates looking lost. 

After repeatedly witnessing a horror show from the defensive line, he cut a lonely figure on the pitch and lost the thrust down the wings.

As time wore on, Carrasco's patience snapped. There was obvious petulance, his body language was frustrated and he spent increasingly more energy whining about fouls and challenges. 

Coupled with the fact that Dalian's owners scaled back on investments in football, the club had no choice but to let him go. 

Carrasco is a celebrated virtuoso with undoubted talent. Surely, there will be a sense of shared nostalgia when his official decoupling from China finally sinks in. It could be that, at the peak of his powers, he just went to the Chinese topflight at the wrong time.

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