The Chinese league is booming – and paying out incredible sums of money. 270 million euro have already been invested this winter and the new signings include prominent players like Alex Teixeira (Shakhtar Donetsk/50 million euro), Jackson Martinez (Atlético Madrid/42 million), Ramires (Chelsea/28 million and the former Leverkusen player Augusto (eight million/Corinthians).
The football world is currently keeping a close eye on China. There is hardly a country on the planet where sums equal to those in the Chinese Super League (CSL) are changing hands daily in the transfer market. It has almost become a real shopping spree and stars from the European leagues are being enticed with astronomic sums and salaries. About 270 million euro has already been pumped into new players making the CSL bigger spenders than the English Premier League. And the sum will increase as the transfer window will remain open in China until 26 February. The season will begin immediately afterwards.
The list of spectacular purchases is long. In contrast to past times – and other rather less attractive leagues – the clubs have bought top players still in their prime. However the prices paid significantly exceeded the true market value. For instance, JS Suning splashed out a CSL record transfer fee of 50 million euro to Shakhtar Donetsk for the Brazilian Alex Teixeira (26). “I’d had loved to have moved to the Premier League but after there had been no definite interest, the serious bid then landed on the table. And I obviously said ‘yes’,” said Teixeira. His new club had previously caused a major stir by signing the Brazilian Ramires (28) for 28 million euro from Chelsea. In the list of most expensive transfers, it is however only ranked third behind the 42 million paid by Guangzhou Evergrande for the Columbian Jackson Martinez (29). The striker had only been transferred from Porto to Atlético Madrid for about 35 million euro in summer and was a target for other top clubs. Ultimately, the European clubs could not compete with the salary offered by the club coached by the former Brazilian national coach Luiz Felipe Scolari.
Others to have moved to China include the ex-Leverkusen player Renato Augusto, now 27, (for 8 million euro from Corinthians to Beijing Guoan), AS Roma star Gervinho (28/Ivory Coast) – for whom HB China Fortun paid approximately 18 million euro – as well as the 29-year old Columbian Fredy Guarin (for 13 million euro from Inter Milan to Shanghai Greenland Shenhua). Million euro sums were also offered to the German international Lukas Podolski (30/Galatasaray) and his Istanbul teammate Burak Yilmaz (30), who is still the subject of interest from Bejing Guoan. In addition, the Chinese second division has splashed a total of 48 million euro – the sum is greater than that of the top leagues in Spain and France.
“It obviously crazy what’s going on there. It was the first time ever that Chinese clubs have made a concerted effort to attract for players from Europe,” said Christian Heidel, the general manager at the Bundesliga club 1. FSC Mainz 05. CSL clubs are becoming serious rivals to the big boys in Europe and are competing with one another after the country’s teams had previously scoured the African and South American markets. It has led to Werder Bremen being offered a double-figure million fee from China for striker Anthony Ujah.
The transfer offensive has been made possible by the new TV contract which will inject about 1.15 billion euro into the club’s coffers. It correlates to around 230 million euro per season – an increase of 3,000 per cent. “It’s an historical day that makes us confident we’ll turn the CSL into one of the world’s top leagues,” said the association’s vice-president Zhang Jian after the agreement was signed.
Parallel to the CSL, improvements are being made to the standards at junior level to herald long term success for the national team. At the moment, the team is fearful of missing out on qualifying for the third round of the continental World Cup qualification. After the disappointing results in January, head coach Alain Perrin (59/France) was dismissed and a successor is still to be determined – but the - future - international targets have. The football-mad state president Xi Jinping (62) would like China “to qualify for the World Cup so that China can host a World Cup, and win a World Cup”. Ex-Bundesliga pro Zvjezdan Misimovic (33), who plays for the Chinese club Beijing Renhe, believes there is a direct link between the momentary transfer offensive and the state president’s enthusiasm for football. “Xi Jinping loves football and many billionaires are establishing private clubs to impress him. They’re spending a lot of money,” he told the “Bild” newspaper. The newly-signed stars from the top European leagues are also helping to spark a nationwide euphoria. According to Misimovic, the transfer spree is also not yet over saying, “I think the end is still a long way off.”