“Chelsea confirm the departure of midfielder Oscar to Chinese club Shanghai SIPG.” This statement which made the headlines of most of the media outlets yesterday, sent a stark reminder yet again to the footballing world that there’s a new bully in the playground. Shanghai SIPG have reportedly paid £60 million to secure the services of Oscar, thus making him the seventh most expensive player in the history off football.
What’s more, the 25-year-old Brazilian, whose Chelsea departure seemed imminent after having fallen down the order under Antonio Conte, chose to move to a relatively unknown league in his prime footballing years. So what could be the reason for Oscar’s move? Well, it’s surely not some childhood ambition to join a dream football club. Oscar will be earning an astronomical £400,000 per week at the Shanghai-based club. The highest earning player in the world’s richest league, the Premier League, Paul Pogba, earns about £2,90,000 per week at Manchester United. And Oscar, though a quality player without doubt, has been a bench-warmer at Chelsea for the past few months.
The Chinese League caught the eye of the footballing masses for the first time when Chinese club Shanghai Shenhua signed Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka in 2012. These moves were disparagingly considered similar to the moves made by players, who were nearing the end of their playing career, to the Major League Soccer or the Australian League. But the next few years have seen a major change in the stature of the Chinese League.
Oscar’s Brazilian team-mate, Hulk, was signed from Zenit St Petersburg in June for £45.7million and earns £3,20,000 per week by Shanghai SIPG. Oscar’s former Chelsea team-mate, Ramires, is earning €13million annually at Jiangsu Suning. Former Tottenham midfielder Paulinho and ex-Atletico Madrid striker Jackson Martinez, who reportedly earns £9.5 million annually, were signed by Guangzhou Evergrande. Italian spearhead Graziano Pelle joined Shandong Luneng from Southampton this July and earns about £12 million annually.
All these players were nowhere near the end of their playing days. On the contrary, they were players looking for a fresh challenge away from their current clubs and there were quite a few good European clubs in the race for their signature. In one particular case, a player rejected a move to an established premier league club in favour of a move to China. Earlier this year, Ukrainian club Shakhtar Donetsk confirmed that midfielder Alex Teixeira would be joining Jiangsu Suning in a deal worth a reported £38 million. Suning offered an astonishing £1,50,000 per week salary to the uncapped player. Alexis Sanchez currently earns £1,30,000 at Arsenal! Teixeira reportedly turned down an offer for Liverpool F.C to join Jiangsu Suning.
Such has been the intent of the Chinese clubs in recent years. Masterminded by president Xi Jinping, who is an avid football fan, and with help of companies that are buying into clubs alongwith a staggering $240 million TV rights contract, China has steadily become the Asian football powerhouse and is now challenging the likes of the Barclays Premier League and the La Liga. The Chinese clubs seem willing to throw anything to get the names. They are not only matching or agreeing for more transfer fees than their European counterparts, but also offering such amounts of salaries that extremely hard for the players to reject. Four of the top ten highest paid football players in the world ply their trade in the Chinese league. A deal to sign Carlos Tevez from his native club, Boca Juniors, which will see him earn £6,15,000 per week, is reportedly near completion. Just to show the monstrosity of the deal, Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi both currently earn £3,65,000 per week.
It’s not just the players who have been swayed by the riches of the Chinese Super League. Premier League winning manager Manuel Pellegrini is currently in-charge of Hebei China Fortune. Former Chelsea boss Andre Villa Boas, who succeeded former England Head Coach Sven-Goran Eriksson is the manager of Shanghai SIPG. Eriksson is still in China, managing second-tier club Shenzhen FC. “Now, in 2016, it seems that every player wants to come to China for the same reasons. [All the money] will make the clubs much stronger. Maybe 10 or 15 years ahead, I’m sure China’s national team will compete well [enough] to win the World Cup” Eriksson said in an interview in February 2016.
“Yes, of course, the Premier League should be worried.Because China looks to have the financial power to move a whole league of Europe to China.We are long enough in this job to know that it’s just a consequence of economic power and they have that. Will they sustain their desire to do it? Let’s remember, a few years ago, Japan started to do it and slowed down after. I don’t know how deep the desire in China is, but if there’s a very strong political desire, we should worry.” said Arsene Wenger, when asked whether the rise of the Chinese League is a reason for the Premier League to worry about. Chelsea manager Antonio Conte has described the market for leading players in China as a ‘danger to everyone’, after Oscar’s departure was confirmed.
The Chinese clubs are still on the prowl, attempting to sign some of the biggest names in football. Lionel Messi, Wayne Rooney, Alexis Sanchez are some of the players rumored to be targeted. There are rumors doing the rounds that Guangzhou Evergrande are ready to offer an unbelievable £700,000 per week salary to Rooney. Hebei China Fortune are reportedly offering a £500,000 per week salary to Messi. If Sanchez moves to China, his earnings would be triple of what he is currently earning at Arsenal. Zlatan Ibrahimovic has supposedly rejected a mega money move to China by extended his contract with Manchester United for another year.
The way things are going, China might become a major football hotspot, thus making Arsene Wenger’s aforementioned worries and Sven-Goran Eriksson’s prediction come to fruition, sooner than later.