China go football mad; but are they aiding it?

It has not escaped the notice of every footballing country on the planet that China are fast becoming a major influence in the transfer market. Whether it is transfers that have gone through, or rumours flooding the back pages of the latest publications, chances are the Chinese Super League is embroiled somewhere. 

From the outset, the Chinese super league clubs have demonstrated little desire to stamp their own way on the game. Unlike Brazilian “joga bonito”, or the Dutch “Total Football” scheme, both of which place emphasis on beautiful football, China’s will to coerce the cream of the footballing crop comes from their ability to brim a players pockets. 

The national president, Xi Jinping, is known to be a footballing fanatic, with a dream of bringing an economic explosion from the football world in ten years time. He has endorsed the bankrolling of the provincial clubs by suitably healthy corporations, and gradually beginning to insert an influence on the transfer market. Carlos Tevez is currently the worlds top earner – the new signing at Shanghai Shenhua will earn £615,000 a week. Oscar is on £400,000 a week at Shanghai SIPG, while perennial cash hoarder Hulk is taking home £317,000 a week for his troubles.

Further to this, President Xi is now commanding revenue off the pitch too. Expansions on stadiums have increased in the past six years, with some clubs doubling their attendance, or even trebling them. The average still remains roughly  24,000 supporters per game per stadium but will doubtless increase year on year as it has done since 2009. TV rights are now becoming a competition too, with PPTV paying £560 million to show Premier League games over the next three years; making it the largest overseas contract for U.K. based football matches. 

Xi’s vision is to bring a World Cup tournament to China, and establish his national team as World Cup contenders by 2025; they who currently sit in 43rd in the world rankings, and last qualified for the finals in 2002, exiting somewhat ignominiously without scoring a single goal. The fact this might be considered their greatest achievement is exactly the impetus for Xi to push more money into an ever expanding commodity. 

But the ambition is not without its faults. The loss of Champions League football will affect a lot of players, as will the idea of creating an entirely new way of life to that of Europe. The compeititvity of the Chinese leagues may be more comparative to the German league,  dominated by few with the majority trailing in their wake.

Certainly those who are the tail end of their careers and are looking for a retirement fund to see them through may opt for China over America. Fundamentally, all China have to offer the superstars of world football is a monumental cash sum, which may tempt some, but not all. 

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