Not a chance you missed a headline on the topic in the last year – “Chinese money taking over football”, “Chinese footballing revolution”, “Chinese mega money tempting Hulk/Ramires/Oscar” etc.
It is a hot topic in the football world and the Asian dinosaur is seen as a major new player on transfer market. Which nowadays – in case you`ve missed it – means pretty much “in football”. Money, transfers, salaries and agents – issues that form the major talking points.
But there is more to that what happens in China. In football that is.
In fact the mega transfers that shook the world are few – the Oscar one, taking him from Chelsea to Shanghai East Asia team, lead by Andre Villas-Boas as manager, is mind blowing. It touches the 60 million euro mark and the weekly wage of 466 000 euro is four times higher than the brazilian was earning in London.
It also makes him the highest paid footballer, ahead of Messi and Ronaldo. Wonder how they compare on the field?
Leo and Cristiano have won 7 Champions league medals and 9 Ballon d`Or combined. Oscar has got none of those present in his house.
It never bothers the Chinese though. The money is there and so is the vision.
Former president of the Republic Hu Jintao who run office until 2013 made a 50-point plan for Chinese football. A passionate fan as himself, he formed the long term aim – China to win the World cup in 2026.
The start is by putting together a strong and competitive league, which is not exactly happening yet. The stars are there – coaches and players, but the class and pedigree is not something you just by and slot into place.
For the past 6 seasons only one team has won the League title – Guangzhou Evergrande lead by Luis Felipe Scolari. Another World cup winning manager is the head of the national team – Marcelo Lippi, who guided Evergrande to 3 of their titles.
This is the only team in China who keeps a solid strategy in building a squad and improving it every season. And Evergrande are competitive in Asian Champions League as well, winning it twice in the last 4 years.
But they are alone in a league of clubs lead by billionaires who cannot find the balance between spending for the showcase effect of it and laying strong foundations for a good team.
The league is not yet very popular in the country as average attendances are low for Chinese standards. Evergrande are leaders with 44 859 average last season which makes a 76% of the capacity of their ground. None of the other clubs can pass the 70% mark and come close to the champions.
There were notable events in May 2016 as well – club bosses came together for a meeting and founded the Chinese Football League (Super League and lower division included) that will take over from the Football Association in a year. It is the English model of running the League competitions, and is expected to generate bigger revenues and almost double the money from TV rights. The league is already broadcasted in Australia and all Asia.
And a curious note – there will be no Buffon, Neuer or Joe Hart going to China anytime soon.
Not a question of loyalty mind you. There is just no way any goalkeeper from Europe will be transfered to the dizzy heights of the Chinese Super League. Nor from Asia, Africa and America.
In 2001 a ban came into the ruler book of the League. No income transfers of foreign goalkeepers!
And that is a one off in the world, be sure of that. The reason is that the people behind the founding of the league back than thought that a goalkeeper is an essential position – which of course it is. With the rule of 3+1 foreigners per a team, that pretty much means – you buy an import player and he plays every game. So if a goalkeeper is transfered he will give no chance to a local talent to ever get his place.
Adding the deficit of good keepers in China by the time, the rule came into place to protect the development of local players in that position. Strange, we know… But it still is a valid law of the game in the country today.
And the effect is visible albeit not convincingly positive. In the last 2 years a bunch of 9 keepers played for the national team… Too many good players for one spot or just too many but none too good?
Time will tell where the Chinese revolution is taking football in that part of the world.
Don`t expect any crazy salary offer to take the great Buffon over there though. He and his kind are not allowed.