It was supposed to be the start of a major push for Chinese football to finally get itself noticed. And to some degree it really did.
But the way Shanghai Shenhua's spending spree of 2012 has since fallen apart tells it's own story of a false dawn.
Didier Drogba signed a major contract with the club, one which would net him a reported £193,000 a week.
Already there was Nicolas Anelka, who had made the switch months earlier and played a big part in tempting Drogba to the club.
They were joined by a third superstar, a well known name in South America, called Giovanni Moreno.
Moreno's capture was significant, because unlike the former Chelsea duo, he was joining the club in his prime - at 25-years-old.
The attacking midfielder's comparable youth, and talent, was supposed to mesh perfectly with the elder statesmen of Drogba and Anelka, and help Shanghai achieve their goal and win trophies.
Having previously been linked with moves to European clubs including Porto, when he signed for Shanghai, he admitted the attraction of playing with the duo was the main reason he allowed the money to tempt him to China.
At his unveiling, he told reporters:
"As everyone knows, China is not a market that is to the liking of every person, but the truth is that if there is one thing that motivates me, it is the team.
"They are picking up players of an international standard, like Anelka and Drogba. The plan is to be there and form a great team.
"It is a footballing opportunity, nothing else. A good deal was made, that is why I am going there."
So it is fair to wonder how he feels 13 months after making the switch, having seen his main temptation to sign on, depart.
Shanghai paid Racing Club £6.2 million for his signature, and are reluctant to let him just walk away as they did Anelka and Drogba.
Moreno's contract expires in 2014, and they could cash in to avoid him walking away on a free next summer, but the problem for the attacker is that his time in the Chinese league brings concern over his viability to move to a top league in Europe.
He is however, still going strong. While the last of his 15 international caps came in 2012, seemingly having taken a blow with his move to China, Moreno is showing Shanghai why they bought him.
After a slow start, his form is really picking up. Moreno has four goals and two assists in his last eight games for the club, a very respectable tally for an attacking midfielder.
This included a goal at the weekend after a month out with injury. Moreno may be playing for a move, or simply making the best out of a frustrating situation, but so long as he keeps scoring the goals - everybody will be happy.
image: © Crystian Cruz