Will China be a football superpower?

Do you even recognise the photo for this blog? You probably don’t but that’s the logo for the Chinese Super League.

There has been a lot of talk recently about China and the money they have been spending lately, but will China become a football superpower?

In the current environment of professional football, it seems money talks loudest. When the likes of Chelsea and Manchester City were suddenly bankrolled by billionaire owners, many claimed they have ruined football. More than a decade later, Chelsea are still a prominent force in European football whilst cutting back on their lavish spending. Manchester City on the other hand, with new manager Pep Guardiola at the helm, the owners seem to be willing to pay for whatever and whoever he wants after spending just over £180m this past summer (more than any other Premier League club).

China’s President Xi Jinping is supporting plans to make his country a football superpower, which has seen a 50 step plan created to improve the entire football scene in China from grassroots to professional.

When and why did China start spending so much

In 2011 teams in China starting to invest in foreign players as Guangzhou Evergrande bought the Argentinian forward Darío Conca from the Brazilian club Fluminense for a RECORD £7m. Since then the prices have become more and more inflated. The reason for this was recently explained by Shanghai SIPG’s manager who claimed that teams in the rest of the world wouldn’t take China serious or accept their bids over other teams if they didn’t basically blow everyone else out the water.

Also I think the lack of world-class Chinese players, drives up the price of the best homegrown players; for instance Zhang Lu, a 29-year-old goalkeeper with just two caps for China, moved clubs for £8m last year. The high cost of top Chinese talent means it makes economic sense for clubs to spend large sums on top foreign players. Similar to the Premier League and how English players seem to have inflated prices but in the Premier League teams would rather pay less for foreign talent than expensive English talent whereas in China this seems to be the opposite.


Similar to the certain leagues in Europe, China have implemented a quota on foreign imports and only allow foreign outfield players. The list of last season’s foreign players – three non-Asians are permitted for each club’s starting lineup, plus another as substitute – shows at least 20 Brazilians on the books of Chinese clubs.

I wouldn’t go so far as to say China is corrupt but it is very Government based and a lot of motives behind things are Government based and football is no different. With so much emphasis from the Government for China to be a football superpower, the companies who own the 16 clubs in the Chinese Super League see investment as a way to gain favour with the government.

Even with all these players going to the China Super League and all this talk and publicity, I still don’t intent to watch any of the matches, do you?

With elite managers and players still choosing to play at the top level and for the top honours instead of purely for money, I don’t think China will become a football superpower especially with the lack of great Chinese players.


3 thoughts on “Will China be a football superpower?

  1. Interesting. Do you think the factors that make Chinese players more expensive are economic?
    I suspect that the Chinese state’s aim to create an attractive Football league is more than just to build a strong Chinese starting XI, but I’m not sure what it may be. Certainly the country is still not economically liberal yet, with the government playing a heavy hand in many industries. Authoritarian (China is still a 1 party state) governments have a history of using Football to convince the world of their success….

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Not necessarily, I just think it’s simple demand and supply. Even though many Chinese teams are spending on foreign players who are miles better than their Chinese teammates, I think the team who has a quality Chinese player and makes him the face of the team will benefit immensely nationally and internationally thus making the few Chinese players who have such quality rare and thus more sough after, inflating their prices.

      The Chinese state simply want to succeed in another industry and have identified football as the industry they want. It’s certainly not just about the Chinese starting XI as they have already bought Inter Milan and Valencia and have been building relationships with top agents in football but I agree, they just want to be successful in football and after decades of the soft approach they’re simply using hard tactics and throwing a lot of money at it.


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