There’s more to the ambitious Chinese Super League than inflated wages

Ryan Benson
Subscriber

There has been an awakening. You have felt it. The Chinese Super League has truly emerged as a global power bent on the prospect of upsetting the established order and forging a new football force in the East. But there’s more to this insurgency than many realise.

Government-backed, and financially secure as a result, the Chinese Super League has of course caught the attention of the world with its incessant accumulation of some of European football’s most sought-after talents.

Hulk, Alex Teixeira, Carlos Tevez and now Oscar are just a few of the big names to answer the great call of China, and their signings – while seemingly money-motivated – highlight the league’s ability to attract players in their prime; this is no retirement home anymore.

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Former Chelsea pair Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka both spent part of the 2012-13 campaign with Shanghai Shenhua, though neither renewed their respective stays, reportedly due to allegations of unpaid wages.

And then the government got fully immersed in the division’s re-brand after setting out to rid it of corruption in the early 2010s. Since then, President Xi Jinping has been crucial in the league’s development after assuming office in March 2013.

And “development” is the critical word. Contrary to the ramblings of fat Albert down your local, the CSL is not looking to just make a quick buck. They, the Chinese Football Association and the government are making all the positive sounds of a league and governing body planning for success on a global scale.

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Football has been specifically put on the country’s school curriculum, with 5,000 such institutions currently “specialised” in the beautiful game, according to a government decree. Added to that, they are aiming for that number to be 50,000 by 2025 and have a team capable of genuinely challenging for the World Cup in the 2030s.

All of this falls under XI’s hope to create a Chinese sporting dynasty worth $850billion, more than double sport’s current estimated global worth of $400bn.

Of course, there are a lot of speculatory numbers, predictions and targets, but there is certainly evidence to support suggestions that Chinese football is fully prepared to back its own future.

In fact, just this week the CFA announced that for the coming season – which begins in March – Super League clubs will only be able to field three non-Chinese players, an even stricter rule than the previous “4+1”, which allowed for five overseas players as long as one was from another nation which comes under the Asian Football Confederation umbrella.

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And there is even talk of the number of Chinese scorers in a team being a genuine tie-breaker at the end of a season. That rule doesn’t take much examining for someone to pick it apart, but it at least shows that their motivation is in the right place.

For the time being, the Chinese Super League will of course receive attention more for the incredible sums flying about, such as Tevez’s reported £650,ooo-a-week wages (after tax), than the playing standard or homegrown talent.

But when you have the 20% of the world’s population living in your country, you’ve got a decent chance of finding 11 talented players eventually with the right backing at grassroots level.

And what makes the Premier League’s money injection any more righteous than the CSL’s? It’s time to acknowledge the rising of a new order.

The Chinese Super League best XI would do alright the Premier League