Is Chinese Super League the emerging football powerhouse?


In the past two years, the Chinese Super League has experienced growth at an exponential rate. Its value has increased by 81%, which makes it the fastest growing football league in the world.

Experts opine that if it continues to grow at this rate, it will get to the same level with top European clubs in a short period. The domestic right for the 2016 season is worth $1.26 billion, 20 times more than the previous deal, a further demonstration of its growth.

The Chinese league has in recent time recorded the arrival of Nigerian players; notable amongst them was the December 2016 transfer by Mikel Obi from the English premier league’s Chelsea FC.

Mitchel Obi, a veteran sports presenter and analyst described the influx of Nigerian stars to China as the best move for the players.

According to him, “The dynamics of the game has changed and players have realized that their playing years is declining.

“The name of the game is money; the glamour, fans and funfair all boils down to money. The players are beginning to see that their operating span is getting shorter in terms of getting the right kind of money. In China, they are where the tax is low, compared to England where the players pay more tax. This also means they can save good money for the future, especially for the ones that have made their mark, and won everything (in terms of title) that needs to be won,” Obi added.

He further explained there is nothing unusual about the influx of Nigerian stars to the China League.

“There is nothing wrong with players joining the Chinese Super League, players in Europe want to go to big clubs where they can earn big money. Now players want to go to the big and money spinning league where they can pocket more money,” said Obi.

Commenting on another Nigerian international, Odion Ighalo, who also moved to China, Obi remarked “He didn’t make much impact in the EPL and had to look for money instead. The more top footballers join the CSL, the more the league will be taken seriously.”

“The EPL became popular when TV money came in, unlike past years; the English league is no longer an attraction for top players,” said Obi.

The CSL appears a mutually beneficial scenario, where player’s benefit and the league also grow. The Chinese league is gaining attraction and now that more Nigerian players are gravitating towards playing in China, it will attract more Nigerian fans to the league.

The Chinese appear to be revolutionizing her football and this has led to mass exodus of players from Europe.  Analysts have argued that the move will give the players more playing time to keep fit and earn a place in the national team.

Again, one cannot rule out the cash involved in China, it will help to contribute some foreign exchange to the Nigerian economy and strengthen the naira when the players come back home with the dollars to invest in the country. They will play regularly and earn big money.

A boom in spending by Chinese clubs has been spearheaded by the country’s President Xi Jinping, who aspires for football success in order to boost the country’s prestige. This drive has seen China jump to the fifth highest spending league in transfer fees behind the England, Germany, Spain and Italy over the past year.

It is no longer news that the CSL is determined to emerge as one of the best in world, and administrators in the league are working to achieve this by bringing the best legs of the game from top leagues across Europe to play in their league.

Nigerian players have been part of the evolution after seeing Super Eagles skipper John Obi Mikel join Tianjin TEDA on a deal worth £170,000 per week.

He joined fellow compatriots Obafemi Martins who plays for Shanghai Shenhua (£100,000 per week), Anthony Ujah; Liaoning Whow in and the latest being Odion Ighalo who transferred from Watford to Changchun Yatai for £20mn, and to earn £200,000 per week.

Asisat Oshoala of Arsenal Ladies is also linked with a move China. There have been several unconfirmed reports suggesting that Asisat who is a two-time African Women’s Player of the Year may join the women’s team in China after being offered a lucrative deal.

The Chinese Super League appears to be flexing financial muscles with the English Premier League.

This season, Shanghai SIPG alone has spent more than $100 million signing Brazilian pair Oscar and Hulk and will spend some millions on player wages as well.

Shanghai Greenland Shenhua, meanwhile, made Carlos Tevez the highest earning footballer on the planet, paying him a reported weekly wage of £615,000k – double the amount Cristiano Ronaldo, the 2017 Ballon d’Or winner earns.

In 2015, the Chinese Super League spent more than €400 million on transfers.

An overwhelming majority of that money went towards poaching overseas players with the likes of Alex Teixeria for £42.5m from Shakhtar, Atletico Madrid’s Jackson Martinez for £35.70m, Chelsea’s Ramirez for £23.60 and Roma’s Gervinho for £15.3m.

In 2016, the money spent during winter transfer market hits $336.6m in a deal that see the likes of Chelsea’s Oscar for £60m on a £350,000k per week wages, Boca juniors Carlos Tevez for a deal over £71m which makes him the highest paid player on £615,000k a week, Nigeria’s Odion Ighalo of Watford join Changchun Yatai for £20m and will earn £200,000k per week and Zenit’s Hulk for £47.43m and Axel Witsel who joined for an undisclosed fee to earn £300,000k per week.

Whilst these figures are undoubtedly impressive, surely this is merely the CSL coming of age in a huge market. Some skeptics have suggested it is not feasible to sustain this sort of growth in a market already dominated by the traditional European powerhouses. However, this may well not be the case as support for the CSL in China is vast as evidenced by its huge population. The CSL currently has more followers than the Premier League, the Bundesliga and La Liga combined.

Chinese Super League clubs are also currently among the top five biggest spenders in world football. The true scale of China’s investment in world-class players was laid bare recently when some its clubs were revealed to be among the top five spenders in world football.

The Chinese league also boasts of high ranked coaches that have been managing top clubs in China. This includes Luiz Felipe Scolari, Manuel Pellegrini, Sven Goran Eriksson and Fabio Cannavaro.


Anthony Nlebem & Ismail Adebowale