Beijing - Chinese Super League clubs wrapped up a record
spending spree on Friday after football transfers worth a world-beating 331
million euros ($365 million) sent the sport into a spin.
With the winter transfer window set to close at midnight,
China has smashed the national record no fewer than four times, culminating in
Jiangsu Suning's 50-million-euro purchase of Alex Teixeira.
The high-profile hiring of top players for outlandish sums
has suddenly put the Chinese Super League on the map at a time when President
Xi Jinping is pushing hard to turn China into a footballing power.
China's spending in the January-February window outstripped
the English Premier League's 253-million-euro outlay in January, according to
figures compiled by industry website Transfermarkt.
It was also more than the next four major European
championships combined -- Italy's Serie A, the German Bundesliga, the Primera
Division in Spain and France's Ligue 1, Transfermarkt said.
China's national team is ranked a lowly 93rd in the world,
but Xi has declared his hopes of the country one day hosting and winning a
World Cup, prompting a flood of money into its top professional teams.
More than half of the CSL's total spending came on just six
players, the data showed, all of them foreign -- three of them Brazilian -- and
mostly coming from European teams.
After Brazil's Teixeira, the second highest purchase was the
42 million euros Asian champions Guangzhou Evergrande paid Atletico Madrid for
Colombian forward Jackson Martinez.
Overall, the CSL's 163 transfers average fee came out at
2.03 million euros, Transfermarkt data showed -- significantly more than the 1.46
million euro mean in England's Premier League.
Also read: China could win World Cup in ten years - Eriksson
- 'Money is no object' -
China's big spend comes as the country tries to raise its
football game to a level commensurate with its growing economic and military
China lost all three of its World Cup matches in 2002, its
only appearance, letting in nine goals and scoring none.
Xi's stated ambitions have been seized on by Chinese
business magnates, who openly acknowledge that their footballing investments
also have political calculations.
Wanda Group, owned by Chinese billionaire Wang Jianlin, has
taken a 20 percent stake in Spanish side Atletico Madrid.
In a recent book, Wang reportedly wrote: "The
government leaders care about it very much, and the Chinese administration of
sports made several appeals, so I came back and am offering support for Chinese
Late last year, state-backed investment firm China Media
Capital was part of a consortium that bought a $400 million stake in Premier
League giants Manchester City.
The enthusiasm has driven the premium prices for talent,
according to Rowan Simons, an author and prominent commentator on Chinese
"The buying spree is spurred on by the wish to please
the president, so money is no object", said Simons, adding that the
country "is a naive new buyer in this very small market and is
ill-equipped to negotiate effectively against the super-agents who wrote the
- 'A lot of ifs' -
Even so, the numbers pale compared to the amounts spent
during the summer transfer window, when the Premier League racks up its largest
But David Hornby, sports business director of the Mailman
brand management group in Shanghai, said it was not hard to imagine the CSL
taking the number one spot in overall spending.
"There's no reason to suggest that spending will slow
down... everything in China when they set their minds to it becomes
super-charged," he said.
But opinions vary on whether cold, hard cash, political will
and foreign talent are enough to achieve national soccer glory.
Earlier this week, former England coach Sven-Goran Eriksson
said China could "compete well to win the World Cup" in 10 or 15
years' time, arguing that investments in youth league soccer will help groom
But Mark Dreyer, a sports blogger in Beijing, was less
optimistic. "I don't expect to see China winning the World Cup in my
lifetime," he said.
"Signing foreign stars won't likely improve the
standard of Chinese players," he added.
"If... this spending sparks renewed interest in the
game and that further helps to build a larger fan base, and if the revenues
generated are then spent wisely on areas like youth academies, then this could
benefit the Chinese game over the long-term -- but there are a lot of 'ifs'
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