Shanghai Lions Football Club

The rapid growth of the Chinese Super League

Chinese football, over the years, has rarely received much coverage on a global scale. However, that is changing. And quickly. It’s gaining more and more attention of late, as teams such as Shanghai Shenhua and Guangzhou Evergrande have stretched their financial muscle to the very limit – with some very big names from Europe and beyond deciding to join the CSL (Chinese Super League).

Some people say China are buying their way into the footballing industry. And one would be foolish to disagree with them, as the main incentive for players and coaches in Europe is the money factor, a factor that is growing and growing. With all this money the Chinese Super League has, it can only attract bigger and better stars across the globe and surely more and more people will tune in to check out the latest ongoings in the league.

In terms of China’s national team, it often excels against teams in Aisa but when put up against a genuine European or South American side, they can’t cope. If the domestic football can keep developing, then maybe the national team will perform to a higher standard, too. And find an influx of new, fresh talent knocking at the door in the near future.

Take Shanghai Shenhua. A club developing rapidly and earning a lot of supporters worldwide. I’m sure most of you reading this have heard of them by now, as Shanghai are the club who recently captured French star Nicolas Anelka, and even more recently Ivory Coast powerhouse Dider Drogba. The duo, both signed from Chelsea, will no doubt bring plenty of attention and financial boost to Shanghai as fans look to get the classic “Drogba” on the back of their shirt.

The pair will not only enhance the club in terms of footballing power, but also drive the club further and other European stars will look at these signings and take notice. Obviously, a lot of money was spent on bringing the two in – but it should be money well spent as both Anelka, and the very recent signing of Drogba, have the ability – even at their mature footballing ages – to hurt teams.

Shanghai, who have a 33,000 capacity stadium, finished 11th in the Chinese Super League last season, but surely with their new added assets and Argentine coach Sergio Batista, who has a vast knowledge of the beautiful game plus South American connections – things can only improve on and off the pitch. They are not a side known for winning cups and silverware, but one would guess that in five or so years time that that could well be the opposite case.

And then, you have Guangzhou Evergrande. The champions of the CSL last season. This is another club blessed with ridiculous amounts of cash, and they have wasted no time in utilising it. The Southern China Tigers, as they’re also known as, have a squad filled with talent.

China’s national team captain Zheng Zhi, who used to play for Charlton and Celtic, is the main man in midfield. Dario Conca, of Argentina, signed in July 2011 from the Brazillian league, for a fee of around £10m and a salary of around £12.5m a year. Not bad eh? To be fair, he was netted 16 times in 25 matches so far in his Guangzhou career – so he hasn’t exactly turned out to be a flop… yet.

And as recent as May this year, two very, very big names have joined the setup at Guangzhou. Former Italy coach Marcelo Lippi, who won the 2006 World Cup, signed a two-and-a-half-year deal to become the new club manager. And if this wasn’t enough signal of serious intent, Paraguay international Lucas Barrios signed from German champions Borussia Dortmund in a deal which will see him earn £6.7m a year.

This is how much some Chinese outfits, such as Gunagzhou, are prepared to pay for world-class players as they know that it’ll pay off in the future. The Chinese top-flight is set to explode next season, with a host of teams battling it out for the number one spot.

China are bidding to be the new face of Asian football. The money is there, the quality of players are increasing and you know it’s got promise when a World Cup winning coach, in Marcelo Lippi, moves there.

It’s expanding at a rapid rate. And it’s not going to stop, for anyone.


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