The Chinese Super League, will it be a threat to Europe?

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With the start of the 2016 CSL just around the corner, it made headlines with big transfers. But will Europe’s elite be facing competition with the CSL for the foreseeable future or is it just a short term phrase that will eventually dry out?  

It isn’t so much the teams in the CSL that are grabbing all the attention but more the players that have moved over into Asia that seem to be in the limelight. Odds are most people wouldn’t be able to name many of the teams in the league but would probably be able to name a few stand out players that apply their trade in China.

It’s not just the players either that are well known out there. Former Chelsea and Brazil national team manager Luiz Felipe Scolari is currently manager of the reigning CSL champions Guangzhou Evergrande Taobao who have won every CSL since the 2011 season. Scolari took over from legendary Italian defender Fabio Cannavaro as manager in 2015. Another famous manager in China is former England manager Sven-Göran Eriksson who is in charge of last years runners up Shanghai SIPG.

But what exactly grabs the attention to go out and play in the CSL? One thought that first comes to mind to many people is the money. With massive weekly wages for the top players, it’s easy to see why that is the case. It probably wasn’t the dream for many professional footballers past and present growing up thinking of ever playing in China. This is mainly due to the dominance of domestic European football with the Champions League and leagues like the Premier League and La Liga grabbing worldwide attention.

Drogba and Anelka

Drogba and Anelka together at Shanghai Greenland Shenhua (source: www.goolfm.net)

This hasn’t all happened just overnight, the CSL has been grabbing the attention of big players for the last few years. French striker Nicolas Anelka left Chelsea in January 2012 to play for Shanghai Greenland Shenhua, who also currently have former Premier League strikers Obafemi Martins and Demba Ba amongst their ranks. Then in June of that year Didier Drogba left Chelsea after famously winning the Champion’s League to link up with his former Chelsea strike partner.

This seemed to kick start the Chinese football revolution as renowned players from around the world quickly gained interest in playing in Asia. Notable players such as former Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Paulinho and former Real Madrid, Manchester City and AC Milan forward Robinho both moved to Guangzhou Evergrande Taobao in 2015.

It was in the recent 2016 winter transfer window when the CSL really started putting pressure on Europe with some quite astonishing signings. CSL clubs spent £250 million on top players such as Brazilian midfielder Ramires making a surprising move from Chelsea to Jiangsu Suning for a reported £21 million. CSL champions Guangzhou Evergrande Taobao then splashed the cash signing striker Jackson Martinez from Atlético Madrid for at the time an Asian transfer record of £31.5 million.

Jackson Martinez

Martinez being introduced at Guangzhou Evergrande Taobao (source: www.sofascore.com)

Jiangsu Suning didn’t stop the spending there as they also signed Liverpool transfer target Alex Teixeira from Shakhtar Donetsk for a whopping £37.5 million, which broke the Asian transfer record again just set by the transfer of Martinez.

In that same transfer window Argentine forward Ezequiel Lavezzi signed from PSG to Hebei China Fortune and is thought to be earning around £400,000 per week there. Former Arsenal winger Gervinho also signed for Hebei China Fortune from Roma to continue the big name moves.

All of these big player signings and more in the future will be on massive wages which can’t be matched by most European clubs. The cash injection by very wealthy CSL club owners is a sign that not just now but for the foreseeable future big players will be lured into Asia. The players seem to have no concerns such as not playing in the Champions League and not coming up against top quality sides on a regular basis.

But in modern day football money talks so this isn’t seen as much of a concern like it may have done a few years ago. If they can keep this up in years to come with more notable names switching over, the CSL could well be a threat to European football and will have to come up with a plan to keep the best football talents in Europe.


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