There are some new kids on the block. Move over big-spending Qatar and MLS, you are no longer the seaside retirement resort of choice for aged footballers looking for a golden handshake before their retirement. China is now the place to be, apparently.
In fact, it seems like it’s not even old and washed-up players that are making their way to East Asia to play in the Chinese Super League just at the moment, with players like Tottenham flop Paulinho playing alongside Robinho at the Luiz Felipe Scolari-managed Guangzhou Evergrande – though Robinho has now left the club.
In this January window, however Chinese clubs have been splashing the cash to bring yet more talent to their league. Ramires, Gervinho and Freddy Guarin are the latest big-name players to be lured to China, all three of whom have left some of Europe’s top clubs, and all three of whom are still under 30 years old.
Unlike MLS and the Indian Premier League, the Chinese Super League seems to have the means to attract players who should still be in their prime, and the money available is impressive, too.
In fact, as these stats show, the Chinese Super League has actually spent more money than the Premier League in this window. But these stats also show the disparity between the Chinese and English top tiers compared with the Championship and even with Ligue 1, where teams have managed to spend less than half of the cash that even Championship clubs have spent.
January spending by league: Chinese SuperLeague £106m Premier League £104m The Championship £11.8m Ligue 1 £4.9m
— Uber Football Facts (@UberFootbalI) January 28, 2016
But when it comes to the second tier, it’s China who win again:
January spending: Chinese League One clubs have spent more than La Liga clubs League One: £33.1m La Liga: £22m
— Coral (@Coral) January 28, 2016
The fact that the Chinese second tier can spend more money than the English second tier is impressive in itself, but the fact that it can spend more than the Spanish top flight is staggering. In fact, Luis Fabiano – the former Sevilla striker who won two UEFA Cups and two Spanish Cups as well as 45 Brazil caps and a Copa America – is now playing his football for Tianjin Quanjian in the Chinese second division.
It looks like we might have to start taking China seriously as a hotbed of football sooner rather than later. And with a population of 1.35bn people, there must be some wonderfully talented young players in there somewhere.
With their league beginning to take off, and with these young Chinese players having the chance to play against some very good quality players who are still in their prime, maybe it’s time we started to look at China as a potential footballing powerhouse in the years to come.