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Chinese Super League

Chinese Super League club ‘scraps moves for Costa, Benzema, Falcao and Cavani’ after limits on foreign players

Tianjin owner claims multiple deals had been lined up by big-spending club before rule change

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 17 January, 2017, 11:22am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 17 January, 2017, 10:42pm

Diego Costa’s hopes of a move to China may have been scuppered by the Chinese Super League’s new limit on foreign players, according to Tianjin Quanjian’s owner.

Shu Yuhui claims the club scrapped moves for some of world football’s biggest stars including Costa, Karim Benzema, Radamel Falcao, Raul Jimenez and Edinson Cavani after a surprise rule change restricting the number of foreigners teams are allowed.

Billionaire Shu told Tianjin TV that contracts had been agreed with Monaco’s Falcao and Benfica’s Jimenez and massive deals lined up for other stars before Monday’s rule change by the Chinese Football Association.

Teams will now be allowed only three foreigners in their matchday squads in the coming season. Previously they had been allowed five – four from any country plus one Asian.

“If [the rule] had been ‘4 +1’ as in the past, then we would have made a big investment this year, but now it seems to be changed to three,” Shu told Tianjin TV, Sina Sports reported.

“This situation has brought a change to our signing plans.

“The online reports about Costa, it’s true we’d like him, and we made an offer for Cavani and were deep in negotiations.”

Shu, who made his money with a Chinese herbal medicine business, is a fan of the media spotlight, and was photographed last week with super-agent Jorge Mendes.

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“Mendes came to my home a few days ago and we also had ideas about Costa, but in the process were ready to sign two players, the contracts were done, the price was good – [Mendes clients] Falcao and Raul Jimenez,” added Shu.

“The contracts were ready, the two players ready to sign, and then we get the news about the salary limits and restrictions on foreign players, so that made us change.”

Reports in France said Monaco had rejected a 50 million bid from Tianjin for Falcao and wanted 30 per cent more.

Shu claimed that Paris Saint-Germain’s Cavani and Chelsea’s Costa could have signed but their clubs did not want to let them go until the end of the European season in June, halfway through the Chinese season.

“We couldn’t afford to wait half a season,” he said. 

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“We certainly want the best players to come to China but at the same time we have to respond to the relevant departments promoting this scientific and rational investment in football.

“We continue to wait and suffer, but at the end of the day we’ll get someone. We have targeted a lot of strikers, and made an offer for Benzema, but with this policy change, we are very helpless.”

Tianjin were promoted from League One last season after heavy investment from Shu, including hiring Italian World Cup winner Fabio Cannavaro as manager. Shu said he had been targeting qualification for the Asian Champions League before the rule change.

Costa – another Mendes client – has been dropped from Chelsea’s first team after reportedly having his head turned by claims of a 30 million a year salary package that Tianjin were prepared to offer.

The Independent claimed on Tuesday that he will now wait until the end of the season and snub China for Atletico Madrid or Barcelona.

Mendes has some of the biggest names in world football at his Gestifute agency, including Cristiano Ronaldo.

Tianjin signed Belgium international Axel Witsel before the rule change on a reported salary of 300,000 a week.