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Why the European transfer market is slowly losing out to 'Chinese Super League' money

1.16K   //    06 Feb 2016, 23:31 IST
alex teixeira
Teixeira’s big money transfer to CSL side Jiangsu Suning showed China’s power in attracting top players

The latest headlines dominating on Friday was coming from the Chinese League outfit, Jiangsu Suning, who splashed 50 million Euros for the signature of Alex Teixeira from Shaktar Donestk, making it a move of true intent to bring the best talent to the cash-rich Asian league.

This is not for the first time any Chinese club is making a strong statement in the transfer market, it has been for some time while they have been dictating terms. Along with Teixeira, they also roped in the out-of-favor Chelsea midfielder, Ramires for a whopping £28m, to make it a twin investment.

Comparing with the most lucrative deals ever made in the Premier League, only Angel De Maria’s £64 million swoop from Real Madrid ranks higher than Teixeira’s transfer splash, which equals the second-highest deal by a Premier League outfit (when Chelsea signed Torres for £50 million from Liverpool in 2011), till date. 

Why China is emerging as a big destination for top European players ?

The Chinese Super League is a league on the rise, with an outstanding competition from the top clubs which, just like the Premier League sees a four-way title race, every time since 2012. Though Guangzhou Evergrande is still definitely the team to beat, however just like the Premier league, the rule is as simple in the Super league as well. 

The top three get a direct qualification into the group stages of the AFC Champions League , with the fourth team making it to the pre-qualification rounds. What that means is that for foreign players coming from Europe and South America the acclimatization to the League and its format is relatively easy. 

Previously many assumed China to be a post-top-flight-retirement place, very much like the Major Soccer League in the U.S, however, big investments and the Asian Champions League glories, over the past couple of years, has perched the Super League as the hottest destination for quality European players.

More than the investments, the annual attendance of a whopping 5 million plus, make it the most attracting soccer league in Asia and very close to Serie A. as the sixth most-viewed soccer league across the globe. 

Considering China’s gargantuan population, the attendance number which has increased five-fold since its inaugural season in 2004 , would remain on the rise, if the Chinese market continues to bloom in the same level as of now.


The annual financial assets of the Super League’s newly conquered sponsor- Ping An Insurance, hovers around 645.7 billion US$. It has its operations across the South East to Macau and Hong Kong as well.

In the Super League itself, Guangzhou Evergrande has won the Super League title since 2011, and has been making it to the FIFA Club World Cup since 2013. Sixty percent of the club’s shares are owned by the Evergrande real estate group, which is the country’s second-largest sales developer.

The group has a whopping market cap of 773 million US$ which makes it the tenth-largest company in the country in terms of market value of shares. So when they broke the bank to make a sensational  €42 million offer for the Columbian star Jackson Martinez, it seemed very possible, considering the cash potential of the club.

Coming to their perennial rivals Jiangsu Suning, who persuaded Teixeira to join the club, instead of Liverpool, they have always been close to Evergrande when it came to matching fire with fire. The underlying fact that Teixeira is in his mid-twenties and Jiangsu has sensed this opportunity to lure him in , speaks volumes of the extent to which these clubs can stretch to make the unexpected deals happen.

 After conceding the title to Evergrande by two points, it seemed obvious they would also adopt the same trend. Their current owners the Suning Commerce Group is one of the largest private-owned retailers in the country, with net worth US$ 442 million as of the 2012 stats. Taking full advantage of the financial superiority , they have also hired in the ex-Manchester City and Brazilian forward. Jo Silva, in addition to Ramires and Teixeira to further bolster the squad.

The format, high-standard of play and huge salaries  are undoubtedly going to lure many potential players from Europe.

Alibaba’s strong initiative and the Prime Minister’s desire to lift the World Cup

Alibaba Group Holding Limited is one of China’s biggest e-commerce industries with a net income of  ¥24.216 billion. Their CEO  Zhang Dazhong, made it clear in a recent interview that after transforming China’s e-commerce market, they have set their eyes on revolutionizing their nascent sports market. China’s government has made it official that winning a soccer World Cup is China’s next big target and the sports market in the country is expected to grow to ¥5 trillion by 2025.

According to him, China’s sports market is massive and soccer can grow a long way in galvanizing the structure. The announcement came a few days after the Chinese government signaled its ambition to make China qualify to the World Cup, host one and win one .

The soccer structure in China, in addition to the booming market is highly organized and stable. To supplement the Super League, China has its own Reserve League and Youth League, which often manufacture the young products in their academy and give them direct chances of playing for their respective clubs. Like the English Football Association. China has its own FA Cup, League One and League Two, as the second and third divisions of the soccer pyramid.

Loss of quality English talent in Europe 

English Premier League has now become a league of foreign talents and products with hardly any new name coming through the ranks. For the past couple of years, England had only produced the likes of  Harry Kane and Jack Wilshere; Theo Walcott has been ravaged by injuries and his career seems to be in dire straits.

Though Jamie Vardy is surging up this year, yet considering the twenty-team format and the lack of English talent on display, it is quite obvious they are not nurtured well. Most top teams spend heavy to lure in quality youth players produced from teams like Southampton, MK Dons and Leeds United who significantly grow the home-grown talent in the country and then send them out on loans to four different places and they end up nowhere.

Only a few teams take the risk of playing those players in their first team , after some years. Their opportunities at their new clubs are significantly cut down due to the massive number of foreign products in the team. in 2014, only 23 English players played the Champions League, compared to 78 Spanish, 55 German and 51 Brazilian players.

In 2010, England won the U-17 World Cup by beating Spain in the finals. and out of the double eighteen man squad, only four have played in 20 odd top-flight games. In the same vein, eight players from the defeated Spanish team have gone onto play more than 20 top-flight matches.

So if the trend continues, many such players would be lured in the Chinese top flight and England and Europe would undoubtedly miss their likes.