China seeks to cool down super-hot transfer market with curbs on foreign players

The governing body is proposing to clubs that they reduce the number of non-Asian foreigners in a playing squad to three from four

PUBLISHED : Friday, 23 December, 2016, 5:17pm
UPDATED : Friday, 23 December, 2016, 8:14pm

China is looking to curb the influence of foreign professionals in the Chinese league by reducing the club quota for overseas players – in what appears to be a move to cool down the super-rich mainland transfer market in which clubs have been paying tens of millions for big-name global players.

The proposal by the Chinese Football Association (CFA) comes just one week before the transfer window opens and a week after reports emerged that Brazil international Oscar would arrive in the mainland in a deal worth £60 million (HK$575 million). The move was confirmed on Friday.

Chinese clubs have spent hundreds of millions over the past year trying to secure marquee players as teams and businesses respond to President Xi Jinping’s call to boost the sport in the mainland. Xi wants China to one day host and win the World Cup.

In a circular to its 16 Super League clubs, the CFA proposes to cut the non-Asian foreign-player quota by one to three from four for the 2017 season, which kicks off in March.

The circular stated: “For the sake of long-term development of professional clubs in China, the association would like to set up a system based on the financial requirements for clubs and also implement the adjustment on the foreign-player quota.

“There has been a growing concern in society on the investment of Chinese soccer clubs following the influx of high-quality foreign players.

“The arrival of these top-class players will no doubt improve the standard of the China league, making it more exciting to watch but at the same time it will also increase the financial burden of clubs and reduce the opportunity of home-grown talent.”

Currently, each team can name four non-Asian foreigners and one non-China Asian (4+1) in their squad list but only three non-Asians can be on the field at any time with the other on the substitutes’ bench. A 3+1 rule would mean a team would not be allowed a non-Asian overseas substitute should they choose to start a match with three foreigners. A team can still be allowed to register a maximum of five foreign players.

The proposal is in line with the Asian Football Confederation requirements on foreign-player quotas for their main club competition, the AFC Champions League.

Clubs have been given until December 29 to respond.

China has become the latest golden playground for foreign talent, with big-spending clubs such as Shanghai SIPG, Jiangsu Suning, champions Guangzhou Evergrande and Shanghai Shenhua flexing their financial muscles in the recruitment of top stars.

Nine of the most expensive signings are by these four clubs with China spending £200 million before the 2016 season .

However, there are concerns that China is creating a football bubble that could burst at any time and the CFA is hoping to nip it in the bud.

Jackie Yu Kwok-king, a veteran in China football industry, said: “It’s good for the development of more local players if they can reduce the number of foreign players in the long term.

“It may also help to cool down the transfer market when it comes to buying overseas players.”

Before the start of the 2016 season, Chinese clubs spent £200m for overseas players.

Aside from Oscar, who is set to join SIPG before the start of the 2017 campaign, there are strong rumours Shanghai Shenhua – managed by former Sunderland boss Gus Poyet – are interested in signing ex-Manchester City forward Carlos Tevez, from Boca Juniors, in a deal that would reportedly earn the Argentina international an astonishing weekly salary of £605,000.

Paris St-Germain and Uruguay striker Edinson Cavani could also join newly promoted Tianjin Quanjian – managed by former Italy defender Fabio Cannavaro – for a reported £41.79 million fee.

Guangzhou Evergrande brought in Colombia striker Jackson Martinez for £31 million from Atletico Madrid before Jiangsu Suning paid Shakhtar Donetsk £38.4 million for Brazilian midfielder Alex Teixeira, having recruited his compatriot Ramires for £25 million from Chelsea a couple of days earlier.

However, the fee for Teixeira was eclipsed by the £46.1 million paid by SIPG for Zenit St Petersburg’s Brazil forward Hulk during the mid-season window.