Chinese Football: Taking European Clubs on a ride.

The recent transfer of the gifted Brazilian playmaker Oscar from Chelsea to Shanghai SIPG caused ripples across the footballing planet. Yes, he was not afforded enough playing time under the new Chelsea Manager, but a 25-year old who is still definitely in the prime of his playing time, chooses to go to China, instead of a host of top clubs in Europe who would have gladly put him into their starting XI.

Why? Money definitely, and a sheer ambition from China’s part to become one of the powers of the footballing world. After all, he will now be paid 400k quid a week now instead of the 90k while he was at Chelsea. Not bad for a player who started just 5 times in the Premier League this season. Their purchasing power has been such that they have managed to not only lure top-flight European footballers in the twilight of their careers, but instead they are also luring away players in their prime, who are more often than not being chased by clubs like Barcelona, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and the sort. Ezequiel Lavezzi, who plays alongside Messi in the Argentina Stripes, plies his trade now at Hebei China Fortune.

Other players include Alex Teixeira, the highly rated Brazilian youngster who chose to go to Chinese side Jiangsu Suning instead of joining Liverpool, who definitely have the reputation to attract talent across the world. The transfer cost? 38 million pounds. Man. Don’t see many European clubs coughing up such an amount. And the list goes on and on of the exodus of internationals from the European top leagues to the Land of The Dragon.

Why though are they spending that big? Mainly because of Xi Jingping, the Chinese Premier, who declared that Football is his favourite sport and also asserted that if China is to assert world supremacy, coming up in the most-played sport is the key, where they are ranked a lowly 82 below countries like Guatemala and Haiti. And hence, businessmen ready to curry favours with the Government are pumping in the dollars (Yuan, rather?) to place China where the government wants it to be. The Government too, is encouraging the sport all through. How much that helps their ranking  remains to be seen. But the sheer impetus the sport has received is definitely going to take China somewhere in the pursuit of their dream.

Here’s to a rising audience in Asia though. Because 400 Million Pounds spent in a single year is, to use a polite, formal term, remarkable. Real Madrid executives better start checking their backs now, for China is comin’.

Anirudh Bhagavatula 

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