Chinese Football took us by storm in 2016 after a series of big name signings including Ramires, Robinho, Gervinho, Paulino, Demba Ba, Fredy Guarin, Jackson Martinez and Alessandro Diamanti. Huge transfer fees and wages were offered but things did not stop there. The Chinese are still as determined as ever to turn their league into one of the world’s best. That’s why they kicked-off 2017 with more big signings.
Brazilian midfielder Oscar became the latest to leave Chelsea for China. A €60 million move to Shanghai SIPG. He joins fellow Brazilian Hulk who joined from Zenit St. Petersburg and former Chelsea and Zenit manager, Andre Villas-Boas. AVB arrived this season in China as a replacement for outgoing Swedish Sven-Goran Eriksson.
Axel Witsel was also another player leaving Zenit for China, he joined newly promoted Tianjin Quanjian who are managed by 2006 world cup winner, Fabio Cannavaro. Cannavaro took over the club in June 2016 after a streak of 7 consecutive competitive matches without a win. The Italian guided them from the 8th spot to the top spot of the China League One within months, guaranteeing their promotion to the 2017 Chinese Super League. Among his players is former Shakhtar Donetsk star, Jadson.
Finally, the biggest transfer so far, for a whopping €84 million, Carlos Tevez. The former Juventus, Manchester United and Manchester City striker left Boca Juniors to join Shanghai Shenhua. He will team-up with Obafemi Martins, Demba Ba, Fredy Guarin and the team’s captain Giovanni Moreno, the team is coached by former Chelsea player Gustavo Poyet. Shanghai Shenhua finished last year’s league in the 4th spot but they will be hoping to do even better with Tevez on their squad.
Out of 16 clubs, only three have Chinese managers but in terms of players, they are limited to only five foreigners per team. The CSL is not the American MLS where out of contract players finish their careers. It is there to pose a serious threat to European football and the Premier League clubs may need to start worrying soon. The Premier League smashed through £1 billion barrier in the transfer window last summer but many agreed that the transfer fees paid for most players were inflated sums. The Chinese are spending Chinese money whereas, the English are spending Arab, Russian, American and all sorts of that. There is no reason to believe that the CSL is ruining football. In fact, it could be the beginning of a new era and maybe it’s about time we start seeing Asian teams rise to the summit of the world. For now, the road is still long even though the gap has been bridged.