China to curb splashy spending on players

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China to curb splashy spending on players
Oscar. (FILE PHOTO: AFP)

BEIJING: China ordered a clampdown Thursday on the mega sums being shelled out on foreign football stars and their salaries after the high-profile signings of Oscar and Carlos Tevez.

There has to be action against “irrational investment” and the government will “regulate and restrain high-priced signings and make reasonable restrictions on players’ high incomes”, a state General Administration of Sport spokesman warned.

Insolvent clubs could be kicked out of China’s Super League, which has been spending more than the English Premier League in recent transfer windows to draw top names.

Brazilian international Oscar moved to Shanghai SIPG from Chelsea in a 60-million-euro ($63 million) deal, while Tevez was lured to rival Chinese Super League club Shanghai Shenhua in a separate big-money deal.

While the transfer fee for the Argentine former Manchester United and Manchester City striker was a relatively paltry 10.5 million euros, according to reports, the 32-year-old is reportedly set to become the highest-paid player in the world with a two-year contract of 38 million euros per season.

Oscar’s deal with Shanghai SIPG is thought to be 24 million euros a season — which would still put him above Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi of Barcelona.

Oscar and Tevez followed the likes of Italian striker Graziano Pelle, the Brazilian Hulk, Colombian Jackson Martinez and Belgian Alex Witsel, who were all lured to unfashionable China by huge wage deals.

Witsel turned down a move to Juventus to go to China, saying he was thinking about his family’s financial future.

Top coaches such as Manuel Pellegrini (Hebei Fortune), Luiz Felipe Scolari (Guangzhou Evergrande), Andre Villas-Boas (Shanghai SIPG) and Sven Goran Eriksson (Shenzhen FC) have also been drawn by Chinese riches.

– Insolvent clubs under threat –

The world-beating deals are part of a Chinese rush into football with heavy political overtones.

China’s national team is ranked 82nd in the world — just below the Caribbean island nation of St Kitts and Nevis, population less than 60,000 — but President Xi Jinping has declared his hopes of the country one day hosting and winning a World Cup, prompting a flood of money into its top teams.

The wild spending has drawn criticism in China. Many fans have questioned whether the huge sums would be better spent on building up the country’s lagging infrastructure and talent in the sport.

Other leagues have also signalled growing concern at China’s spending.

“The Chinese market is a danger for all teams in the world. Not only for Chelsea, but all teams in the world,” Chelsea manager Antonio Conte said last month. The Brazilian international Ramires left Chelsea for China 12 months ago.

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger called Chinese spending a “distortion” that could be a threat to the Premier League.

Without giving figures, the official with the sports administration, the state agency that controls the country’s sport, said the government would “set the upper limit” for players’ transfer fees and wages.

It would consider measures such as taking fees from clubs that spend excessively to support youth development programmes.

“We must take building 100-year clubs as the goal,” the spokesman said, adding that clubs’ financial supervision would be strengthened and their spending on players would be controlled.

“We will remove the seriously insolvent clubs from the professional league.”

In December the Chinese Football Association, the sport’s governing body in China, announced it will lower the number of overseas players allowed on domestic teams from five to four.

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