As Fifa World Cup comes to an end, Chinese interest in club version is back on the agenda as Gianni Infantino meets Jack Ma

Global football boss hints that long predicted expansion could come as early as next year according to reports from the Mainland

PUBLISHED : Monday, 16 July, 2018, 3:30pm
UPDATED : Monday, 16 July, 2018, 3:30pm

Fifa president Gianni Infantino has told Alibaba owner Jack Ma that China has a “big chance” to host the new format of the Club World Cup when it relaunches in 2019, according to reports on the Mainland.

The global football chief met Ma in an hour-long meeting in Moscow during the World Cup, Alisports CEO Zhang Dazhong told Xinhua.

Zhang was present at the meeting and declared it “very likely” that both the 2019 and 2020 editions of the competition would be held in China, becoming the first official Fifa tournament in the country since the 2007 Women’s World Cup.

Alibaba’s E-Auto offshoot signed a partnership agreement with Fifa three years ago, while Alibaba Cloud became “Presenting Partner of the Fifa Club World Cup” in a five-year deal signed at the end of 2017.

It has long been rumoured that the annual tournament, which features the winners of the premier continental club competitions from each of Fifa’s six member confederations alongside a team from the hosts, was due for a revamp.

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The tournament was founded in 2001 and ran for two editions before a hiatus that ended with the introduction of the current format in 2005. Hosting of the annual event has been split between Japan, Morocco and the UAE since then.

This year the Club World Cup will return to the UAE for the second successive year, where holders Real Madrid will look to pull away from three-time winners Barcelona with a record fourth victory.

Reports as long ago as 2016 quoted Infantino as suggesting a 32-team tournament held in June rather than December would appeal more to broadcasters and sponsors. Those reports saw Fifa’s move as a response to growing desire from China to host and therefore compete in more top-level football.

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In recent seasons China has launched the China Cup, an annual international tournament where China invites overseas national teams, and staged several matches in the International Champions Cup, a global pre-season competition involving elite European teams, as well as other high-profile friendlies.

Shenzhen will host the French Super Cup, the Trophee des Champions, between PSG and Monaco in August.

The belief is that an expanded Club World Cup will include at least one Chinese team, allowing the Chinese Super League’s best to compare themselves with elite international club sides in competitive rather than friendly fixtures.

Seven-time CSL champions Guangzhou Evergrande have competed in the Club World Club twice after winning the AFC Champions League in 2013 and 2015.

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They finished fourth on both occasions after winning only one game.

Tianjin Quanjian are the only Chinese side left in this year’s Champions League, which resumes late next month. The debutants play Japanese side Kashima Antlers in the quarter-finals, with the second leg taking place in mid-September.

Guangzhou Evergrande and the South China Morning Post are both owned by Alibaba