POWER OF MONEY

Record pay as Chi­nese league hits global tele­vi­sion au­di­ence

New Straits Times - - Sport -

THE Chi­nese Su­per League will take an­other step to­wards global recog­ni­tion when it re­turns this week, boast­ing some of the world’s best-paid play­ers and a grow­ing au­di­ence in­clud­ing live broad­casts in Bri­tain.

When Ar­gentina’s Car­los Tevez makes his league de­but for Shang­hai Shen­hua, fans from Liaon­ing to Liver­pool can tune in to see what can be bought with re­ported worl­drecord wages of €730,000 (RM3.45 mil­lion) a week.

The 33-year-old for­mer Manch­ester United, Manch­ester City and Ju­ven­tus striker isn’t the only player reap­ing the ben­e­fits of the CSL’s rapid trans­for­ma­tion from cor­rup­tion-ad­dled in­famy into one of the world’s big­gest spend­ing leagues.

Os­car, 25, is re­port­edly bank­ing €466,000 a week with Shang­hai SIPG, which would put him sec­ond on foot­ball’s wages list, be­hind Tevez but above the likes of Cris­tiano Ron­aldo and Lionel Messi.

It is quite a turn­around for the Brazil­ian mid­fielder, who had fallen out of favour at Chelsea be­fore SIPG swooped with an of­fer of €60 mil­lion, the fifth new Asian trans­fer record set by Chi­nese clubs in less than a year.

De­spite an of­fi­cial crack­down on trans­fer fees and wages, and a cut in the num­ber of for­eign play­ers al­lowed, Su­per League clubs spent a record €396 mil­lion in the Jan­uary-Fe­bru­ary trans­fer win­dow, out­strip­ping the English Premier League.

The lav­ish spend­ing has prompted fever­ish spec­u­la­tion about who will be next, and it would be no sur­prise to see Eng­land cap­tain Wayne Rooney, 31, head­ing east for a late-ca­reer pay­day next sea­son.

Rich Chi­nese clubs are an in­creas­ing force on the con­ti­nen­tal stage, with

Guangzhou

Ever­grande,

Jiangsu

Sun­ing and

SIPG drop­ping points in only one game be­tween them in the first two rounds of this year’s AFC Cham­pi­ons League play.

China’s top tier be­came the fifth big­gest-spend­ing league world­wide last year but whether the CSL, which is also broad­cast in Brazil and var­i­ous coun­tries in Asia, can live up to the hype is an­other mat­ter.

Qual­ity re­mains patchy and de­spite a wide-rang­ing cor­rup­tion purge which jailed se­nior of­fi­cials and play­ers in 2012, and en­snared dozens more, sus­pi­cions re­main.

Hong Kong’s horse rac­ing and foot­ball gam­bling mo­nop­oly, the Jockey Club, said last year that it had no plans to of­fer bet­ting on the Su­per League, cit­ing con­cerns over its “in­for­ma­tion trans­parency, in­tegrity and com­pet­i­tive­ness.”

How­ever, there’s no doubt the im­ported play­ers who are now flood­ing into China — also in­clud­ing Alex Teix­eira, Hulk, Ramires and Graziano Pelle — are hav­ing an im­pact.

An­dre Vil­las-Boas at SIPG and Fabio Can­navaro, with newly pro­moted Tian­jin Quan­jian, have also swelled the ranks of for­eign man­agers, join­ing Ever­grande’s Luiz Felipe Sco­lari and Felix Ma­gath at Shan­dong Luneng.

David Hornby, sports busi­ness di­rec­tor for Shang­hai-based Mail­man, a sports mar­ket­ing com­pany, said the in­creas­ing ar­rivals of top play­ers in their prime could only raise stan­dards.

“With Os­car, it may have been that he was play­ing in a group of su­per­stars (at Chelsea). He’s a great player but how do you shine in Chelsea?” he said.

“He is now ar­guably the best player play­ing in China. He’s scor­ing goals. He’s mak­ing an im­pact im­me­di­ately. So maybe he just wanted to stand out, make a dif­fer­ence.

“More likely, I think he wanted to be the guy who comes over and in­spires a new gen­er­a­tion of Chi­nese foot­ball.”

The big ques­tion for Chi­nese fans is whether any­one can halt Sco­lari’s Ever­grande, who have won the last six CSL ti­tles and col­lected two Asian tro­phies along the way.

SIPG, led by for­mer Chelsea and Tot­ten­ham Hotspur boss Vil­las-Boas, and fea­tur­ing Os­car, Hulk and an­other Brazil­ian, the pro­lific Elke­son, look like lead­ing con­tenders.

Jiangsu Sun­ing, who share own­ers with In­ter Mi­lan and have Brazil­ians Teix­eira, Ramires and Jo in their ranks, should also have a say in the ti­tle race.

It is heady times for the CSL, but de­spite the jaw-drop­ping sums be­ing spent — trig­gered by calls from Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping to turn 86th-ranked China into a world foot­ball power — some fans aren’t im­pressed.

“It should be able to lift the league level. But I don’t think it’s re­ally worth it to spend loads of money on one or two play­ers,” Shang­hai Shen­hua fan Jiao Zi, 32, said.

“These one or two play­ers’ salaries are too high. I feel like play­ers and us should be friends, but his (Tevez’s) salary is thou­sands of times more than mine, so I feel quite dis­tant.”

AFP PIC

Car­los Tevez makes his league de­but for Shang­hai Shen­hua for world-record wages of RM3.45 mil­lion a week.

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