Will the Chinese Super League woo Messi, Neymar and Ronaldo?
Teams from the Chinese Super League have spent almost $300m so far in a winter transfer market that has shaken the football world, with many pundits now wondering if the world's very best players could be soon heading to the Far East.
The league broke its transfer record for the third time in the span of ten days on Friday morning, with Alex Teixeira sealing his $55.9m move to Jiangsu Suning. The former Shakhtar Donetsk attacker, who was strongly linked with English Premier League teams Liverpool and Chelsea, has become the 24th Brazilian footballer to play in China.
With Chinese purchasing power at unprecedented levels, it could be argued that only the biggest and most financially stable clubs could rebuff an assault – but if the bids keep growing, perhaps even the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Leo Messi and Neymar could soon be tempted by world-record offers from China.
Founded in 2004, the sudden impact the Chinese Super League on the football world has been nothing short of dramatic. Chelsea midfielder Ramires started the winter rampage, completing a move to Jiangsu Suning for $36.4 million at the end of January. The club, who is also Teixeira's new hunting ground, hails from Nanjing – the capital of the eastern province of Jiangsu – and finished ninth in last year's Chinese top bracket. Reports have also surfaced today that the club, managed by ex-Chelsea defender Dan Petrescu, has also had an amazing $82.9 million offer for Chelsea midfielder Oscar turned down.
The way these Chinese clubs are going, Messi and Ronaldo could end up in China o.— JJ. Omojuwa (@Omojuwa) February 5, 2016
Atletico Madrid striker Jackson Martinez, once seen as one of the most lethal finishers in European football during his time at Porto, sealed his own move to China for $45.1 million at the beginning of February, joining last year's Super League winners Guangzhou Evergrande Taobao.
It seems unfathomable for the likes of Ronaldo and Messi to move to China when still in their prime, but with truly extraordinary amounts of money being bandied about, nothing can be certain. If the ninth-placed team is willing to offer outlandish amounts for Oscar, what would they be willing to offer for a Ballon d'Or winner?
Wages are key to the modern football – and Chinese clubs can more than cope. Ghana striker Asamoah Gyan, formerly of English Premier League team Sunderland and UAE team Al-Ain, recently became one of the world's best paid footballers when he completed a deal with Shanghai SIPG worth around $469,000 per week. Jackson Martinez's new wages are said to have made him one of the top five best paid footballers in the world.
Jackson Martinez is now the 5th highest paid footballer in the world ???? #mmlove— Mario Melchiot (@MarioMelchiot) February 3, 2016
Shanghai SIPG are also reportedly interested in Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney. The club is managed by former England manager Sven Goran Eriksson, and is said to have offered Rooney $36.4 million per season in December to make the jump to the Chinese Super League at the end of the season.
Meanwhile, Manchester United reportedly made a world record $211.1-million bid for Brazilian striker Neymar last summer. The Barcelona superstar's father made this sensational claim this week, while also insisting his son remains happy at the Nou Camp. Neymar is the Brazilian captain and their poster boy, making people wonder how long it will be until a Chinese club comes calling. Suffice to say, a deal would not only have to break the Chinese record for a fourth time, but also obliterate any existing world transfer record for many years to come. Could they do it?