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China’s football boom fed by desire to become a global heavyweight

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Liverpool has been outbid before, but not this way.

Having identified Brazilian attacker Alex Teixeira as their preferred January target, the Reds started bidding at $49.8m and sent a delegation to meet with his Ukrainian club in January.

Defiant Shakhtar Donetsk officials demanded more, but the Reds capped their offer at $59.8m.

Teixeira’s club rejected Liverpool’s final offer and a week later he was sold elsewhere but not Chelsea, the club they suspected.

Chinese Super League club Jiangsu Suning, who paid $74.7m for the attacking midfielder who’s yet to win a cap for Brazil’s national team.

The CSL transfer window closed last Friday (February 26), eclipsing the Premier League and Italy’s Serie A as the biggest spending league in world football in January led by Teixeira, Jackson Martinez ($62.78m from Atletico Madrid), Ramires ($41.8m, Chelsea) and Gervinho ($26.9m).

The player splurge is being matched with investment in top coaches and coaching staff and infrastructure.

The multibillion-dollar investment has been triggered by China’s soccer-loving president Xi Jingping’s dream for China to become a heavyweight in world football.

Jiangsu just paid $2.1m to lure Socceroos defender Trent Sainsbury, 24, from Dutch club PEC Zwolle.

“It wasn’t an easy decision, but it’s money you can’t refuse. It’s something I can build my future with,’’ Sainsbury said.

“They’ve given themselves a 25-year plan and they’re pushing forward with it. They want to build from the ground up and by the end of it they want to host a World Cup and win it.

“That was one of my biggest fear (the levels of professionalism) but I’ve been surprised. They’re trying to make big inroads into world football by flexing financial muscle but they’re being smart and investing at lower levels and facilities, medical staff.’’

Liverpool lost out on Alex Teixeira to Jiangsu Suning.


Sven Goran Eriksson, who’s Shanghai SIPG takes on Melbourne Victory at AAMI Park tomorrow night, headlines an impressive list of coaches, including former Brazil coaches Luiz Felipe Scolari and Mano Menez, former AC Milan and Japan coach Alberto Zaccheroni.

The plan is being funded by tycoons seeking political favours while the TV rights were sold for a whopping $1.67 billion for the next five years.

Now 30-something players looking for a final payday have been replaced by a host of internationals in their prime.

Most clubs pay overs but Hebei China Fortune’s $8.2m purchase of Argentine attacker Ezequiel Lavezzi from PSG was shrewd.

There is a conga-line of world-class players who rejected offers from China, but as the league gains respect and the money increases, the likes of Wayne Rooney, John Terry and Oscar could follow.

“This window was a game-changer,’’ one Australian agent said.

“We always looked at Europe for younger players, but China has turned the transfer landscape on its head.’’

Socceroo Trent Sainsbury has been impressed by the investment in Chinese football.


Australia has been swept up in it, with China now home to core of Ange Postecoglou’s Socceroos and among the highest paid, including Hangzhou Greentown pair Matthew Spiranovic and Tim Cahill, Liaoning Whowin’s James Troisi and Sainsbury.

“Trent’s move is an interesting one, ideally someone like him has the ability to play at a higher level than where he was at, obviously there’s financial; aspects that make it pretty compelling,’’ Postecoglou said.

“But with that comes responsibility. When you get paid more the expectations are you produce more.

“Anytime a player makes a move I’m reticent to say whether it’s a good or bad move because ultimately it comes down to the player. His own standards dictate his development.’’

Chelsea’s Ramires was another surprise move to China.


Considering Sainsbury’s visa teammates are Teixeira, Ramires and former Manchester City striker Jo, expectations will be high.

Perhaps the most telling transfers involved Beijing Renhe and Tianjin Quanijan.

Renhe paid West Ham $8m to sign Croatian striker Nikica Jelavic, while fellow Chinese second division club Tianjin paid $16.4m for Geuvanio from Santos, lifting China’s second tier inside the top five January spenders.

With clubs clamouring to be a part of the revolution, competition is one thing, competition in China is another.


© 2016 Herald Sun | This article was written by David Davutovic and first appeared in the Herald Sun on 23 February 2016.

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