‘Unnamed Chinese club’ leading the way again in another transfer window full of hot air

  • Familiar epithet is again garnering plenty of column inches in Western media as transfer window opens
  • Chinese clubs have become financial behemoths in recent years
PUBLISHED : Saturday, 12 January, 2019, 8:04am
UPDATED : Saturday, 12 January, 2019, 8:03am

The transfer window for Chinese clubs never fails to deliver, at least in terms of transfer rumours.

That is where we stand right now with the window open blowing in nothing but hot air.

West Ham United striker Marko Arnautovic is the latest player to be linked with a move to China, although the club reported to be interested in the Austria international remains unnamed.

That is so often the case when players are linked to the Chinese Super League.

Rumours of Chinese clubs wanting to sign overseas players have been the currency of tabloids for years but they have increased in volume ever since Chinese clubs started spending big in 2016.

“Player X to unnamed club” or “player Y to Chinese Super League” is one thing but when it is not unsubstantiated links with unnamed clubs then it is weirder still.

Earlier this week newly promoted Shenzhen FC announced that they had emailed AC Milan to get to the bottom of reports suggesting they are in the market for striker Fabio Borini.

The story went that the CSL club were unwilling to pay the 10 million Milan wanted and they were negotiating. Then they dropped their interest.

That was the version from Italy but the story from China was markedly different.

Shenzhen released a statement via the Shenzhen Evening Post making it clear that they were never interested in Borini and that they had emailed the Milan club to ask where the reports had come from.

A new one for sure.

Emails to get to the bottom of transfer speculation is a new one but even still it would be no surprise if the former Sunderland man turned up in Shenzhen ahead of the new season.

All football clubs prefer to do their business out of the public eye but Chinese clubs are a different beast.

A year ago Guangzhou Evergrande reiterated their pledge to play an all-Chinese team by 2020. This came in the face of widespread rumours linking them with a move to then Borussia Dortmund striker Pierre-Emerick Aubemayang.

The Gabon hitman moved to Arsenal but it should be noted that the seven-time Chinese champions only mounted a title defence of note because they signed Paulinho and Anderson Talisca in the mid-season window.

It was 12 months back that Beijing Guoan were adamant that they had no idea about stories linking them with Villareal striker Cedric Bakambu.

Reports had suggested that the Congo striker’s buyout clause had been met by the Beijing club but they were stoneyfaced in their response.

“We were not aware of this. We learned later through multiple channels that he left the club for personal reasons,” they said at the time.

Marko Arnautovic to China: forward’s brother says Austrian ‘greatly desires’ CSL switch as West Ham dig in

Bakambu went on to sign for the club. The deal was further complicated by the introduction of the so-called “transfer tax” on Chinese Super League clubs.

Beijing Guoan effectively had to pay double for the striker, although the exact amount of tax they paid has never come to light, making him the most expensive African footballer in history.

Bakambu scored 19 goals in 23 league games and four goals in five Chinese FA Cup matches as the team took the trophy back to the capital.

Even with that return it is hard to justify an outlay north of 70 million, a similar figure being reported for Arnautovic with the tax included.

That figure was a shock a year ago and it is more shocking now. The transfer tax remains in place but has been joined by a raft of other financial constraints ahead of the new season. The message from above is to curb spending and for clubs to live within their means.

Coupled with China’s general economic downturn no club or their chairmen want to be seen to put their heads above the parapet, at least not admitting to a multimillion-dollar deal.

You can see why Beijing Guoan are looking to distance themselves from a reported deal for Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Mousa Dembele.

Chinese Football Association to introduce salary cap amid raft of financial constraints but 100 per cent tax stays

Alexandre Pato to leave Tianjin Quanjian after Chinese Super League side caught up in owner’s arrest

Beijing Guoan CEO Li Ming told Beijing News that “Guoan have not been in touch with Mousa Dembele”.

Nonetheless, British media think that an £11 million deal is almost done for the Belgian midfielder and we sit and wait to see where the truth lies.

Agents have long used the media to get leverage for their clients and Arnautovic’s brother and agent Danijel might be doing just that.

The media are happy to report it, transfer rumours sell papers and generate clicks. Those insufferable ITKs on social media are happy to parrot them too and then there are the folks who love making stuff up.

It’s hard enough to negotiate without the added subterfuge of Chinese clubs but it would be a surprise to see any deals approaching Hulk, Oscar or even Bakambu in this window.

Until the deals are done, confusion is the only currency.