Chinese Super League 2016

Messi to Hebei for €100m a year the latest crazy China football rumour – even as state media warns clubs ‘don’t mortgage your future’

People’s Daily rails against the massive sums Chinese Super League clubs are spending on foreign players, but it doesn’t look like any are listening

PUBLISHED : Friday, 16 December, 2016, 11:25am
UPDATED : Friday, 16 December, 2016, 10:32pm

Chinese state newspaper People’s Daily warned the country’s big-spending football clubs not to “let money mortgage the future” on Friday – even as superstar Lionel Messi was being linked with a 500 million move to Hebei.

The lengthy article in the government-run daily could be seen as an indicator officials are worried the Chinese Super League’s spending is getting out of hand.

Even before the transfer window opens on January 1, huge deals to bring South American players Oscar and Carlos Tevez to Shanghai are reportedly all but done. The transfer fee to bring Chelsea’s Oscar to Shanghai SIPG has been reported as 60 million, while Tevez will reportedly be paid as much as 40 million a season by Shanghai Shenhua.

And the latest crazy rumour saw Sky Sports claim that Barcelona’s Messi is a target for Hebei China Fortune, with the club supposedly willing to give him a five-year deal worth 100 million a year – after tax, more than four times his current salary.

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Messi is currently in negotiations with Barcelona over a new deal, and it is likely the rumour is nothing more than a bargaining ploy – but given the crazy sums spent by Chinese clubs, nothing seems too outlandish to rule out.

Since president Xi Jinping demanded that China become a football superpower, clubs have been spending huge money on foreign players, while investors have also been snapping up European teams.

But in a lengthy article reflecting on the last year in Chinese football, People’s Daily suggested it was time to rein in the madness.

The article pointed out that despite the spending – which began in earnest this time last year – the Chinese Super League still lacked professionalism in its structure, organisation and facilities.

Warning of “imbalance in the investment model”, it said that “long-term development of youth training, infrastructure, etc” was being neglected in favour of funnelling massive sums of cash to foreign stars.

And with the China national team struggling – they were beaten at home by war-torn Syria recently in World Cup qualifying – the editorial said the influx of big-money foreigners could affect “psychological changes in the Chinese players”.

“On the one hand, Chinese players want their salaries to be in line with the foreigners; on the other, ‘dependency on foreign players’ is also affecting the [Chinese] players’ training, competitive power and ability.”

The article warned that if Chinese football as whole does not improve, “all prosperity is just a dream bubble”.

It remains to be seen if anyone will pay attention, with the Asian transfer record looking certain to be broken again, perhaps several times, in January.

Some reports say Tevez will sign for Shenhua as soon as the transfer window opens, but he said he is yet to decide.

“I do not rule out that Sunday might be my last game [for Boca Juniors]. But I do not see myself leaving Boca, I cannot imagine it. I am suffering greatly,” he told Argentine TV station TyC Sports.

“I will decide with a cool head” while on honeymoon “in a sunny place,” he added.

Meanwhile, Brazil international Lucas Lima is the latest South American set for China, with his agent claiming he received an offer “impossible to refuse.”

Wagner Ribeiro said the proposal included an annual salary of more than US$15 million.

“There is a Chinese club that has made a proposal that is impossible to refuse. No club or player could say no,” Ribeiro told Radio Globo.

Lima, 26, has been capped 13 times for Brazil and has previously been linked with Hebei.