To anyone who dismissed the Chinese Super League as second-rate and nowhere near good enough to affect football on a global scale…you’re not laughing now are you?
It’s taken a little while for things to really take off in China but any club that can afford to spend upwards of £30m on players that are coming to the end of their careers, and pay them in excess of £500,000 per week, needs to be taken seriously.
But for all of the Carlos Tevez’s that go east looking for one last pay day, take an Axel Witsel or an Oscar – current international players who are far from being put out to grass.
Yes, China is very much a threat to the English Premier League, and to every other top European League – right now.
Football participation at all levels is beginning to snowball in the country thanks to President XI Jinping’s directive that all schools will now have the sport on their curriculum, and China as a nation must be in the mix to host, and then win, a World Cup within 15 years.
Though the talent pool at present is ostensibly coming from across the world at this juncture, the follow through will be that the standards of Chinese players increase. Better training, better teammates, better all-round frankly.
Cristiano Ronaldo was, allegedly, offered in the region of £40m per year to go and play there, with Real Madrid handed a £100m carrot to let him leave. That neither were interested – at this point – shouldn’t take away from the fact that this was a genuine offer of employment. European clubs simply can’t compete with that sort of spend.
As Belgian international Witsel pointed out when he made his move from Zenit St. Petersburg to Tianjin Quanjin, “It was a very difficult decision because on one hand there was a great team and a top club like Juventus who wanted me, but on the other there was a crucial offer for my family that I couldn’t turn down.”
Therein lies the crux of the argument. If a club like Juventus, with all of its history and with current players such as Higuain, Dybala et al – not to mention their Serie A form almost guaranteeing the title and Champions League football – can’t compete, how can anyone in their right mind still suggest that the Chinese Super League is nothing but a second-rate competition?
It can’t be compared with MLS, as some are doing, because the structures are entirely different, and the ‘boom and bust’ argument that others are trying to espouse doesn’t hold water because the individuals and companies behind many of these teams simply have more money than most people can ever dream of.
We are at a watershed moment. The danger is clear, and it’s very present.