Shanghai boss Andre Villas-Boas fumes as new China foreign player rules throw plans into disarray
Big-spending SIPG spent €67m on Oscar and Uzbekistan captain Odil Ahmedov before new limit on foreigners was announced
Andre Villas-Boas has been given an instant insight into the political realities of working in China after his plans for the coming season were thrown into disarray by the Chinese Super League’s surprise new limit on foreign players.
Former Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur boss Villas-Boas took over at Shanghai SIPG in the summer and immediately smashed the Asian transfer record by taking Oscar from Stamford Bridge for a reported €60 million.
But midway through the winter transfer window, with the start of the season just weeks away, the Chinese Football Association peremptorily announced that teams would be allowed to field a maximum of three foreign players in their matchday squads, down from five (four of any nationality plus one Asian).
Big-spending Shanghai have seven foreign players on their books, Brazilians Oscar, €55.8 million Hulk and €18.5 million Elkeson, young Ivory Coast winger Jean Evrard Kouassi, Koreans Kim Ju-young and Kim Young-gwon and Uzbekistan’s Odil Ahmedov.
Ahmedov was signed for €7 million before the new rule was announced, presumably to fill the ‘plus-one’ Asian foreign player slot.
Shanghai’s spending might not have been over as they continued to be linked with a host of big-name players, but Villas-Boas admits his plans are up in the air after the new edict, which many believe the Chinese government imposed on the CFA.
“This decision should have been made after the season, or with a certain buffer, such a huge change shouldn’t be announced about a month before the new season,” he told Chinese media in Qatar, where Shanghai are undergoing winter training.
“Most of the clubs’ team building plans have been in accordance with the previous rules. That’s when everyone gets caught off guard.”
Another new regulation is that clubs will have to field two Chinese under-23 players in every game, one in the starting XI, leading many to predict a new ‘bubble’ in the market for these players.
“I know that the Chinese Football Association introduced this new deal to vigorously improve the level of local young players, but it will also lead to high prices for young players, with many purchasers competing for young players, their market value will be a serious bubble,” added Villas-Boas after his side drew 2-2 in a friendly with Saudi Arabian side Khaleej FC.
“It will be very costly to train young players and it will not be beneficial for young players to play under too much pressure.
“Of course we must accept the reality of this situation, after all the new rules have been set, but I still don’t think such a short time from the start of the season is a particularly appropriate time to introduce such a new deal.”
China’s clubs have been caught on the back foot by the surprise announcement, with Tianjin Quanjian’s owner claiming that his team were forced to scrap massive deals for a host of top names.