China football heavyweight warns of market imbalance over foreign transfers
Days after China abruptly began scrutinising the recruitment of foreign football players into the country’s dominant Super League, one of the most influential men in the Chinese game cautioned the industry not to overreact to the rules by turning their backs on overseas athletes altogether.
“I don’t hope things suddenly move to another extreme,” said the CMC Holdings chairman Li Ruigang, whose firm backed the record Us$1.2 billion purchase of the Super League’s broadcasting rights, at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. “China needs international talents to bring skills, boost the ratings, popularity of the games, make the games more attractive.”
Chinese teams, backed by the country’s rich, have shaken up the global market for football talent by bidding up contracts. The Shanghai Shenua team reportedly agreed to pay 32-year-old former Argentina international striker Carlos Tevez €40 million (Dh156.9m) a season, making him among the world’s best-paid players even though he is nearing the end of his playing career. That news came shortly after another of the city’s clubs paid Chelsea a fee of US$75m to bring over the Brazilian reserve midfielder, Oscar.
Outside China, teams have complained about how such deals are inflating the market for talent, and last month, the Communist Party’s flagship People’s Daily newspaper chimed in with an editorial pointing out that 80 per cent of the 4.1 billion yuan spent by the country’s top division teams last season went toward foreign coaches and players.
Mr Li called for a more balanced approach to scouting foreign talent.
“I think China’s soccer market should be more thoughtful and sophisticated. Buying talents at such high price is not reasonable,” he said. “It’s not good for local soccer market or the global market. It disrupts the pricing.”
CMC Holdings, an affiliate of China Media Capital, last year paid 8bn yuan (Dh4.4bn) for five years of domestic television rights to Chinese football, or 100 times the league’s previous 80m yuan-per-season agreement. The company also lead a group that spent $400m to buy a 13 per cent stake in Abu Dhabi-owned Manchester City, a few months after the Chinese president Xi Jinping visited the English Premier League club in 2015.
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Updated: January 18, 2017 04:00 AM