The Chinese Super League, the country’s top football tournament, is no stranger to foreign players. Ever since its inception in 2004, the league adopted the ‘4+1 policy’ i.e. inclusion of four internationals plus one Asian player in a team.
Off late, the league has seen a huge influx of big names from various clubs of Europe which included French striker Nicolas Anelka, Chelsea legend Didier Drogba and Tottenham’s Brazilian prodigy Paulinho.
But, the recently concluded January transfer window broke all records as the Chinese clubs were responsible for four out of the top five deals during the mid season period.
Chelsea’s Brazilian midfielder Ramires signed for Jiangsu Suning for a stunning £21.00m, Hebei China Fortune acquired the services of Ivorian striker Gervinho from AS Roma for £13.50m and Shanghai SIPG FC finalized their deal with Brazilian centre forward Elkeson for £13.88m.
However, the most significant transfer happened on Wednesday as Guangzhou Evergrande broke the Chinese transfer record to sign Colombian striker Jackson Martinez for a massive £31.50m.
Leading experts consider the Chinese League to be the best in Asia, but it is still quite far from the standards maintained by the best in Europe.
But, the question remains – what is the reason behind the Chinese Super League’s expensive shopping spree?
The spending by the Chinese clubs has been encouraged by the Chinese President Xi Jinping, who is a big football fan and has plans to host the FIFA World Cup in the near future. China qualified for the 2002 edition of the tournament when it was held in Japan and South Korea, but they were eliminated from the group stage without registering a single victory.
Since then, the country’s government has been paying special attention to the game and as a result, most of the wealthy businessmen of the country are buying stakes in the football clubs to earn political and financial favours from the government.
The government is also trying to encourage new talents as they plan to have 20,000 schools playing the sport on a weekly basis within 2017. The main purpose behind the strategy is to develope the game on the grassroots level and to give more chances to the youth footballers of the country.
But, the biggest show of intent by the government was the construction of Guangzhou Evergrande International Football School – the biggest football academy in the world – with the help of Spanish giants Real Madrid.
The Chinese League has a long way to go when it comes the standard of the game on display, but with the amount of money spent by the clubs and the continuous government backing, it seems that China is well on its way to become a potential footballing superpower.