What has China done to modern football?
Ramires, Alex Teixera, Oscar, Hulk, John Obi Mikel, Carlos Tevez, Graziano Pelle, and Jackson Martinez – these are just some of many big names lured to China to play football. Their motive was that it clearly was their childhood dream to win the Asian Champions League, right? Wrong. All these players have been lured by the strong financial strength of the Chinese Super League.
Last January is when China’s money flower started to sprout as China’s president Xi Jinping invested heaps of China’s money into the Chinese Super League. After their transfer window ended last year in late February, it was estimated that Chinese clubs spent over $433 million on players.
On January 27, 2016, Chelsea midfielder Ramires joined Jiangsu Suning for a fee of £25 million, breaking the Chinese transfer record. This move paved the way for many other players to join the Chinese Super League and earn ridiculous amounts of money.
On February 3, 2016 the Chinese transfer record was broken for the 2nd time by Guangzhou Evergrande as they acquired Jackson Martinez from Atletico Madrid for £31 million. Martinez was not having a good run at Atletico Madrid scoring only 3 goals in 22 appearances after being signed from Porto for £24.5 million. His form, however, did not throw off Guangzhou Evergrande and they signed him. Jackson Martinez was only 29 at the time of his transfer to China and threw away the chance to play a few more years in competitive football to earn lots of money per week. This shows no matter what kind of form you are in, China doesn’t care, as you are a known, relevant player.
For much of last years January window, Alex Teixera of Shaktar Donetsk was linked with Liverpool. Teixera at the time had 22 goals in 25 appearances in the Ukrainian league and The Champions League. The player even stated it “was his dream to play for the Brazilian national team,” And that “Joining Liverpool could help him make that step up.” The deal fell through because Liverpool were unwilling to pay the £39 million asking price for the attacking midfielder and on February 5, 2016, the Chinese transfer record was broken for the third time in 10 days as Jiangsu Suning shelled out the £39 million pounds to sign the attacking midfielder. Alex Teixera temporarily threw away any chance of being selected for the Brazilian national team to earn £150k per week in China.
Over the summer and this transfer window, China have continued their big spending on big players. Graziano Pelle joined Shandong Luning to become (at the time) one of the highest paid players in the world.
Hulk is another player that left for China last summer. Hulk has not been a player shy of playing for the money, as he left FC Porto to join Zenit, where he earned a reported €5 million per year. Hulk now has now quadrupled that at new club Shanghai SIPG earning €20 million per year, making him the ninth highest paid player in the world.
This transfer window Carlos Tevez and Oscar have gone to China. Oscar a player who could barley get a minute for Chelsea in the Premier League, joined Shanghai SIPG for £60 million joining fellow Brazilian Hulk. The midfielder now earns a reported wage of £400,000 per week. At the age of 25, Oscar threw away any chance of important silverware (besides the shot at the glorious Asian Champions League, of course) and hurt his chances for any further Brazilian National Team selection.
Even after criticizing players for moving to earn huge amounts of money, in typical Carlos Tevez fashion, Tevez joined Shanghai Shenhua for a fee of £32.5 million and now earns around £265,000 per week. The Shanghai derby will be absolutely electric, with Hulk and Oscar and 9 other nobodies facing off against Tevez and 10 other unknown names.
Earlier this month Diego Costa was reportedly offered £30 million per year to join a Chinese Team. The big Brazilian/Spaniard eventually turned down the offer to stay at Chelsea. (I bet down the road he didn’t want to be telling stories to his grandkids about his 13 successive Asian League titles.)
Odion Ighalo of Watford who made his name last season, scoring in the Premier League 15 times for Watford, has moved to China today for £20 million pounds. It seems China will but anyone at the moment. Ighalo has been in a severe 15 game goal drought.
China’s big spending is clearly a pathetic attempt to raise the quality of football in China. China’s one big mistake is over paying for players past their prime in their 30’s; these players can’t play forever, and have limited value. But the recent transfer offers have gotten more ambitious, and this is clearly stating China’s intent to create full squads of semi-decent players, which could turn into elite teams in the future.
Players like Jon Obi Mikel must be laughing his arse off everyday when he leaves training knowing he just earned over £100,000. But players like Harry Kane have made it clear that they refuse to sell their careers for a little extra cash.
So, is China really posing a threat to the top leagues in the world, or are they really just helping weed out the players who are in it for the money from those who are in it for the passion?
Can the Chinese Super League become a big league full of good players? Or will it die in the near future? Leave us your thoughts in the comment section.
Image Citation: Photo by Голубович Дмитрий, Licensed by CC-BY-SA 3.0