The Chinese Super League has made news all over the footballing world for spending €136 Million in the January transfer window just closed, more than any other league. Even China’s League One, the Asian nation’s second tier of football, spent more money on transfers in the last window (€43 million) than Bundesliga clubs collectively spent (€36 million). This financial muscle has raised many questions around Europe, namely: Are these leagues going to continue throwing impressive amounts of money around in future transfer windows, and what does this mean for UEFA leagues. Specifically looking at the Bundesliga, how do these events change the landscape of Germany’s top flight competing for top talent around the world?
The Chinese Super League has 16 teams and has been showing strong improvement in recent years. Twice in the last three years Chinese giants Guangzhou Evergrande have won the Asian Champions League. They are only the second Chinese side ever to have won Asia’s most-illustrious trophy, joining Liaoning Whowin which lifted the trophy back in 1990. These clubs are investing massive amounts of money not only in players, but also in coaches. A look at the managers of these clubs is a who’s who of successful, high-profile managers, including Luis Felipe Scolari, Alberto Zaccheroni, and Sven Goran Eriksson.
Are the Leagues Targeting the Same Players?
For the most part, no.
Chinese teams seem to be targeting two types of player. The first tends to be Chinese national players. This is due to the restrictions on foreigners in the Chinese league. Each team is allowed to have only five non-Chinese players per squad and only four on the field for a game, so sides are not able to simply buy up the best talent. The second group tends to be players who are either in their prime or who just past it, who have fallen out of favor with their current clubs. One thing both groups have in common is that the Chinese sides are often overpaying for these players.
According to Transfermarkt.co.uk, ten of the sixteen Chinese Super League clubs spent more on the incoming players than what their valued as listed by Transfermarkt. While this practice is not out of the ordinary, especially if a club desperately wants to bring in a specific player, some of the figures here are exorbitant. Hebei China Fortune brought in six players in the January window, including former Arsenal and Roma winger Gervinho, spending a total of €46.45 million on players valued at just under €27 million.
The biggest reason for the disparity between values and prices is the purchase of two Chinese national players. Left back Haifeng Ding and left winger Ning Jiang were valued at €225,000 and €200,000 respectively, but were brought in from rival clubs for a total of €15 million.
Another example of this policy was Shanghai Greenland Shenhua purchasing central defender Jinhao Bi for just over €11 million. Jinbao has made just 43 appearances in the league, but the Shanghai side saw enough to purchase him for 44-times his market value.
These moves don’t affect Bundesliga sides currently, as there are no Chinese players in the top three tiers of German football.
The other policy is the one that has generated far more publicity in the last few days. The big moves to bring players such as Gervinho, Jackson Martinez, and Fredy Guarin has shown that money can sway these players into moving to Asia. Considering that these players are already quite talented and were playing at major clubs here in Europe, it’s highly unlikely that clubs like Köln or Augsburg could afford to make a move for such players.
The most recent deal of Alex Teixeira moving from Shakhtar Donetsk to Jiangsu Suning for €50 million was perhaps the most-discussed China transfer. WithTrasfermarkt assessing his market value at €30 million, even Bayern Munich would have to hesitate to buy a player at such a price, even as much as he would be a welcome addition their attack.
What does it mean for the Bundesliga?
So how could this sudden financial muscle from the Chinese Super League impact football in Germany?
I believe it could affect the Bundesliga in two different ways. First of all, we have seen in these deals that Chinese clubs do not have to follow the Financial Fair Play rules put in place by UEFA. That means that they can bid as much as they’d like on players without need of being financially balanced. Overpaying for some of the Bundesliga’s star players would allow selling clubs to use that money to upgrade their squads or facilities.
The other concern would be the players that come from East Asia, particularly the contingents from South Korea and Japan, could find themselves no longer interested in coming to Germany. There are currently 15 players from those two nations playing in the Bundesliga. As a group, they’ve totalled 20 goals and 22 assists. These are talented players who might soon see that they can play much closer to their homeland and could quite possibly get paid much more in the process. Without these players in the Bundesliga, it would be much harder for the entire league to garner interest in the German game in Asia.
While it appears that the financial power of the Chinese Super League is going to help bring more talent to the world’s most-populous nation, it’s unlikely to have an immediate affect on our beloved Bundesliga, at least in terms of losing the types of players typically targeted by Bundesliga clubs.
However, we could see a drop in players coming to Germany from growing footballing nations such Japan and South Korea. If that were to happen, it might lead to future issues in terms of growing the long-term popularity of the league in Asia.
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