Ask any English football fan who Guangzhou Evergrande, Shanghai Shenhua, Jiangsu Suning were 5 years ago you wouldn’t get an answer. Now it’s a different story.
Few took notice in 2012 when Drogba & Nicolas Anelka joined the Chinese Super League from Chelsea. But as of today people may take notice.
In the last window old stereotypes have perhaps been crushed. The Chinese league was often seen as one of those leagues where people seek “one last pay check”, along with the like of the MLS and a few leagues in the Middle East. But now its is different, players in their prime are leaving to play for clubs in Shanghai. The likes of Gervinho (13.5m), Jackson Martinez (£30m), and even Ramires (£21m) have just signed for what really are tiny clubs, in a country with little interest in the sport. It’s abundantly clear that this is because of money, after all below is a video of Ramires’ first goal in front of what looks like a crowd of friends and family.
Why the money now however rather than 10 years ago? The answer is the Chinese government.
Essentially the Chinese national team have been something of an embarrassment for some time, but a 0-0 draw with Hong Kong was probably the tipping point. Not only is this somewhat humiliating, it’s also not great for the relations between the principality & China given their historical tensions. As such grassroots investment has been boosted.
However unlike when the FA say they will invest, China really do. Authorities are currently building 50,000 “Soccer Schools” in order to find the stars of the future, and a world cup is a long term aim. This enthusiasm has filtered into the Super League in the process, and the Chinese Government has encouraged many of China’s new “billionaires” to invest in their local sides.
This is the reason for the sudden swathes of cash which are snapping up some of Europe’s best.
Given that the MLS & China are now reaching further afield and signing ever younger talent, it will be interesting to see how the world of football shapes up. With a move for Alex Teixeira on the table from Jiangsu Suning, we could also see the first player to turn down the Premier League (Liverpool) in favour of the Super league far sooner than expected.
We are all so used to European dominance in the beautiful game, but perhaps in the future that could change.