Chi­nese soc­cer’s ris­ing riches yet to bode well for the game

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - COMMENT - A HOST OF TEAMS

in the Chi­nese Su­per League, the coun­try’s top soc­cer league, have wit­nessed big changes in their ma­jor share­hold­ers as well as squads af­ter this sea­son. The Brazil­ian mid­fielder Os­car, a for­mer Chelsea player, is set to join Shang­hai SIPG in Jan­uary on an agreed deal of around $64 mil­lion. South­ern Me­trop­o­lis Daily com­mented on Thurs­day:

Chi­nese soc­cer clubs hit the head­lines on a reg­u­lar ba­sis be­cause they con­tinue to at­tract some of the world’s top soc­cer play­ers and as­tro­nom­i­cal in­vest­ments. Bei­jing Guoan re­cently sold 64 per­cent of its shares to a lo­cal high-end prop­erty de­vel­oper at about 3.55 bil­lion yuan ($500 mil­lion), driv­ing its mar­ket value to a record 5.55 bil­lion yuan.

Big sign­ings keep com­ing, too. Af­ter Os­car, Car­los Tevez, the Ar­gen­tine in­ter­na­tional who is cur­rently play­ing for Boca Ju­niors in Buenos Aires, will re­port­edly be­come the high­est-paid player in the world af­ter join­ing Shang­hai Shen­hua. Re­ports said the 32-year-old striker could sign a two-year con­tract on $762,000 a week.

Such be­wil­der­ing deals, how­ever, are no longer rare in the Chi­nese foot­ball league since Guangzhou Ever­grande made its de­but in 2011. In­spired by its sweep­ing suc­cess in both do­mes­tic and in­ter­na­tional tour­na­ments, largely thanks to its ex­trav­a­gant sign­ings of play­ers from for­eign leagues, many Chi­nese clubs have be­gun to

look to Europe, arguably the most pop­u­lar des­ti­na­tion for top play­ers from across the world.

Their search has now gone be­yond play­ers used to sit­ting on the bench and fad­ing stars at lead­ing Euro­pean clubs. Brazil­ian striker Hulk signed by Shang­hai SIPG is among the first-choice play­ers of the Brazil­ian na­tional team so is his new team­mate Os­car. Even some top Euro­pean clubs are wary of their cash-wield­ing Chi­nese coun­ter­parts in case they poach play­ers from them.

In stark con­trast, China’s na­tional foot­ball team has gained very lit­tle from the money swill­ing around the Su­per League. What is more wor­ry­ing is that some young Chi­nese play­ers now with over­seas clubs might be lured back by the money. Yet it would be bet­ter for them and Chi­nese foot­ball if they con­tinue to play in Europe, where they can de­velop their tal­ent.

A func­tion­ing youth train­ing sys­tem is the key to the long-term de­vel­op­ment of all foot­ball clubs. What is hap­pen­ing in the coun­try bodes ill for the fu­ture of Chi­nese soc­cer.

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