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Will the A-League soon revolve around China?

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Inside the next ten years Asian investment will drive world football.

That was the statement made recently by Tony Rallis who successfully made Trent Sainsbury Australia’s second-highest paid footballer by securing the defender a transfer to China’s high-profile Super League.

As a result of Ralli’s negotiations, Sainsbury will now pocket $3.5 million a year after tax. However that figure does not nearly match up to those associated with the league’s more high-profile recent investments which have caught the eye of the footballing world.

Since modern football was created in England, Europe has been at the heart of what now has become the world game. However as a result of seemingly unmatchable financial investment and governmental desire, is the world game soon to revolve around China?

A decade or so ago, Chinese football was still relatively unknown and insignificant to the global football community – even in China. The government at the time preferred to use the nation’s stadiums for storage rather than for playing football.

However now under the leadership of President Xi Jinping, China has promoted football to the forefront of the national agenda. Mr Jinping created and released a 50-point plan to transform China into a footballing powerhouse, the major goal being to “overhaul” the sport at every level.

Within a time frame of less than half a century, China plans to not only host and win a FIFA World Cup, but to also create a sporting economy with a net worth of $850 billion. This ambitious venture is designed to involve and benefit all that choose to be involved including foreign nations, their football clubs and players.

Beginning at the grassroots level president Jinping aims to increase the number of specialist football schools in China from 20,000 to 50,000. He plans to do this by attracting investors to invest in the nations schools and local footballing clubs.

Furthermore he hopes to integrate Chinese youth players who are studying with their international counterparts by encouraging Chinese investors to purchase international clubs, as they have already done in France and the Netherlands. Coinciding with the plan’s release, the president stated that he “expects” Chinese businesses to invest in football.

The Chinese domestic league is on the verge of rivalling Europe’s top leagues. Perhaps not yet in quality but certainly in box office appeal as with each passing month more and more high profile players choose to leave in order to fill their pockets in China.

Currently 19.8 per cent of the Chinese Super Leagues players hail from foreign nations and this percentage will certainly increase.

This includes the Argentine Ezequiel Lavezzi, who currently earns just shy of $17 million dollars a year, the Ivorian Gervinho who has tripled his income and now earns $9.7 million a year and the Brazilian star Hulk who earns a massive $25 million a year. The league’s most recent high profile signing, Graziano Pelle will pocket over $500,000 a week. This makes him the sixth highest paid player in the world.

Furthermore it has been reported that one of the clubs attempted to sign Gonzalo Higuain from Napoli, offering him over $1 million a week. The player and Napoli refused the offer. If this trend continues, the top competitions may start to lack stars.

Does Australia fit into this footballing revolution? Of course it does. After his recent time spent in China, Tony Rallis also added that he is “certain” Chinese investors will look to purchase A-League clubs and then subsequently lure high profile players to the land down under.

It is believed that the Newcastle Jets are currently being courted by Chinese investors.

China’s footballing plan also includes a strategy to integrate Chinese students who play football with Australia’s youth players and students in order to assist the Chinese in their understanding and speaking of the English language. Would this type of foreign investment truly benefit Australian football?

China is now highly relevant in the footballing world. As of February 2016 the Chinese Super League had spent $360 million during the winter transfer window – more than the the English Premier League.

This demonstrates the financial power of Chinese football. President Jinping views dominating football as another way to assert global power, but how will the other powerful footballing nations respond?

© 2016 The Roar | This article was written by Nicholas De Pasquale and first appeared on the The Roar website on 27 July 2016.

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