Xiao8 heads to LGD after contract tussle
"Retired" is quickly becoming a meaningless word in Chinese Dota, as another Eastern figurehead returns to the game.
Zhang "Xiao8" Ning is officially back in action as a member of LGD Gaming, the side he called home for two and one-half years before winning an International championship with Newbee. The highly respected off-laner announced his departure from Chinese "retirement home" Big God on Sunday before donning the crimson and white once more.
The news follows several weeks of upheavel in the scene, which saw Chinese mainstays Xu "Burning" Zhilei, Bai "ROTK" Fan, Zhang "Lanm" Zhicheng, and Zhang Ning retire from their respective squads to form Big God.
For two members of Big God, at least, "retire" seems to have been a misnomer. Since their departure from their respective sides and a subsequent fourth place finish at the Dota 2 Asia Championships, both Xu and Zhang Ning have joined more competitive teams with apparently renewed vigor.
Unlike Xu, however, Zhang has met considerable opposition in his return to a more formal professional side.
According to comments made on Zhang's personal stream, the off-laner's contract with International 2014 winners Newbee was far from over when he announced his retirement. Zhang allegedly verbally committed to a two-year agreement with the squad, which became official under Chinese labor law when the team paid him a monthly salary.
With a vested financial stake in Zhang, Newbee initially dug its heels into the dirt. In order to acquire the prolific player, LGD faced as much as $800,000 in transfer fees. As the controversy grew, however, Newbee owner Niuwa Jun decided to wave the fee out of respect for Zhang's wishes.
With more moves to come and The International only five months away, the "Great Eastern Roster Shuffle" is likely only just beginning. And with the last International turning five Chinese players into overnight millionaires, the significance of these roster changes is difficult to understate.