China – a new Footballing Frontier or just Fantasy?

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China – a new Footballing Frontier or just Fantasy?

A transfer window that remained fairly static in Europe was eclipsed by the huge amounts of money spent by Chinese clubs ahead of the start of their new Super League season. So, is this just an attempt to bring some much needed publicity to a country with a population of nearly 1.4 billion, or a genuine attempt to make it one of the most powerful footballing nations on earth?


The dramatic rise of football in China can be mainly attributed to the country’s President Xi Jinping, a huge football fanatic who is fed up of the country’s inability to produce not only a world class national team, but a world class football league too. Reports suggest that wealthy businessman in the country have been encouraged to invest heavily in football clubs, to improve their political status. The President is believed to have been so impressed on a recent visit to the UK, where he visited both Manchester United and Manchester City that he intends to make his own country one of the most desirable places for top players to ply their trade.


To give you an idea of just how serious China are in offering a competitive league to prospective clients, you only need to look at the amount spent by Chinese clubs in their transfer window (which does not close until the end of February) a colossal £194.2 million so far, which is almost £20 million more than the English Premier League. The start of the 2016 season next month will also see a dramatic rise in the amount of money the Chinese Super League receives from television rights, which has been increased from $9 million per season in 2015 to $200 million for a five-year deal worth a staggering $1.25 billion.


Unlike the MLS, which has seen players arrive in the autumn of their careers, the Chinese Super League has welcomed world class talent at the top of their game that not even the best betting sites would have predicted. The biggest move to date is the £38 million Jiangsu paid Shakhtar Donetsk for striker Alex Teixeira, making him Asia’s most expensive signing ever. Close behind this mega-deal was Guangzhou Evergrande’s £31 million capture of Jackson Martinez from Atletico Madrid, which eclipsed the £21 million they paid seven days earlier for Chelsea midfielder Ramires. Add to this the arrivals of Gervinho, Fredy Guarin, Tim Cahill, Demba Ba and Asamoah Gyan; it gives the impression that China will be a footballing force for years to come.


The owners of some of the biggest clubs in football will be having sleepless nights over the next couple of weeks and throughout the summer with a host of big name stars being targeted. Recent reports suggest Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney has already been offered £25 million a season for three years by Shanghai SIPG, with Chelsea also reportedly rejecting a £75 million advance from Jiangsu for Brazilian midfielder Oscar. Stories from Spain have also emerged, stating that Atletico Madrid frontman Fernando Torres will become one of the highest paid players in world football if he decides to head to the Far-East to continue his career.


In a country that loves to bet on football, China’s economy is the second largest in the world behind the United States and although the Chinese Super League or CSL is in its infancy, there is nothing to suggest that this sort of financial outlay cannot continue. With some of the world’s richest businessman pumping huge amounts of capital into the game and the country’s President the fifth most powerful on the planet, the balance of power in the beautiful game could be shifting to the unlikeliest of places.


By: Steve Mitchell