Brazil­ian star play­ers chase af­ter the main­land soc­cer dollar

The China Post - - COMMENTARY - BY TALES AZ­ZONI

Most Brazil­ian soc­cer play­ers dream of mak­ing it to a top Euro­pean club. Th­ese days, though, some of the coun­try’s most promis­ing play­ers are head­ing to a very dif­fer­ent sport­ing na­tion.

China is fast be­com­ing the new des­ti­na­tion for some of Brazil’s best play­ers, rather than the English Pre­mier League, Spain’s La Liga or the Bun­desliga in Ger­many.

Thanks to hefty in­vest­ments to boost soc­cer in the Asian coun­try, Chi­nese teams have be­come much more at­trac­tive to Brazil­ian and South Amer­i­can play­ers, mak­ing high salary of­fers that over­shadow the play­ers’ de­sire to move to bet­ter clubs in Europe.

China was the coun­try that has spent the most on trans­fers from Brazil­ian clubs so far this year, top­ping al­most US$40 mil­lion in the sign­ing of nine South Amer­i­can play­ers, in­clud­ing two from Brazil’s na­tional team.

“China is try­ing to be­come a global player in the sport, it wants to be­come rel­e­vant in­ter­na­tion­ally,” said Fer­nando Fer­reira, head of the Brazil­ian sports con­sul­tancy firm Pluri. “And sign­ing some of the best play­ers in Brazil is part of this process, it’s part of the strat­egy. They are com­ing to Brazil to gather ‘raw ma­te­rial,’ to find ‘skilled la­bor.’”

China has been steadily ramp­ing up in­vest­ments on for­eign play­ers and is the third coun­try with the high­est spend­ing on in­ter­na­tional trans­fers in 2015, ac­cord­ing to num­bers re­leased through FIFA’s trans­fer match­ing sys­tem, be­hind Ger­many (US$118 mil­lion) and Eng­land ( US$ 174 mil­lion).

Chi­nese clubs have spent more than US$85 mil­lion on the in­ter­na­tional mar­ket through March 17, FIFA said, more than five times what it spent in 2013. They have al­ready spent nearly US$7 mil­lion more this year than in all of 2014.

Ukraine, Italy and Spain were the coun­tries that spent the most to re­cruit play­ers from Brazil­ian clubs be­tween 2011 and 2014, but now they are all about to be sur­passed by China. It has be­come harder for other mar­kets to com­pete with the Chi­nese, es­pe­cially for sec­ond-tier play­ers not usu­ally tar­geted by big-spend­ing teams such as Barcelona, Real Madrid or Chelsea. Th­ese play­ers are now get­ting bet­ter of­fers from China than from the smaller Euro­pean clubs that had been sign­ing them.

“Play­ers worth 3 or 4 mil­lion eu­ros to teams in Europe now are be­ing signed for about 10 mil­lion in China,” Fer­reira said.

“Some Euro­pean coun­tries are not be­ing able to sign as many play­ers as be­fore, and China has emerged as a new mar­ket, in­vest­ing in foot­ball and tak­ing away the best play­ers and coaches to try to im­prove their game,” Brazil coach Dunga said. “We have to adapt to this the best way we can.”

Striker Diego Tardelli this year be­came the first player from a Chi­nese club to be picked for Brazil’s na­tional team. He was con- sidered one of the top prospects in the coun­try when he made the move to Shan­dong Luneng in­stead of tak­ing up other deals that could have in­creased his pro­file.

Be­fore ac­cept­ing the trans­fer, Tardelli said he called Dunga to ask if he would risk los­ing his place in the na­tional team by go­ing to a coun­try that lacks soc­cer tra­di­tion.

“I told him that I won’t an­a­lyze a player just by tak­ing into con­sid­er­a­tion where he is play­ing, I’ll an­a­lyze him based on his per­for­mance,” Dunga said. “But we have to un­der­stand that there will be more pres­sure on th­ese play­ers. If they don’t play well, peo­ple will quickly say that it’s be­cause they went to a coun­try where foot­ball is not as com­pet­i­tive.”

Tardelli said he will still be able to play at a top level in China.

“I’m not too wor­ried, we play in some high-level com­pe­ti­tions here,” he told Brazil’s SporTV. “Maybe the tech­ni­cal qual­ity is not the same as in Brazil and Europe, but it’s not go­ing to be a prob­lem.”

An­other

high-pro­file

Brazil­ian to move to Chi­nese soc­cer was 23- year- old play­maker Ri­cardo Goulart, who helped Cruzeiro win two-straight Brazil­ian league ti­tles and was be­ing looked at closely by some top Euro­pean clubs af­ter mak­ing his de­but with Brazil last year.

Goulart’s re­ported US$ 16.2mil­lion move to Guangzhou Ever­grande was the big­gest trans­ac­tion in­volv­ing a Brazil­ian club in the lat­est trans­fer win­dow, and the high­est ever for a Brazil­ian player go­ing to China.

With Brazil­ian clubs strug­gling fi­nan­cially, it’s dif­fi­cult for play­ers to re­ject big trans­fer fees and monthly salaries of about US$350,000, nearly three times more than lo­cal clubs can af­ford to pay their top play­ers. Es­tab­lished stars such as Ney­mar still make a lot more in the top Euro­pean clubs, es­pe­cially in­clud­ing earn­ings with spon­sors and other endorsements.

Other play­ers who left Brazil­ian clubs this year for the high salaries in China in­clude Ar­gen­tines Her­nan Bar­cos and Dario Conca, as well as Bo­livia’s Marcelo Moreno.

About 30 per­cent of the for­eign play­ers in China’s Su­per League are Brazil­ians or came from Brazil­ian clubs.

“This is go­ing to con­tinue for some time,” Fer­reira said. “China will con­tinue to be an at­trac­tive mar­ket to foot­ball play­ers and we can only as­sume that the coun­try will even­tu­ally suc­ceed in its quest to be­come a world power in foot­ball.”

AP

In this photo taken Oct. 11, 2014, a Chi­nese fan of the Brazil na­tional soc­cer team looks with a pair of binoc­u­lars dur­ing a Brazil vs. Ar­gentina friendly match at the Bird’s Nest Na­tional Sta­dium in Bei­jing, China.

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