By Parth Parikh,
Sports Business Writer
When soccer fans talk about the best soccer leagues in the world, some of the names you might hear are the Premier League, La Liga, and maybe even the German Bundesliga. But one international soccer league wants to make a similar mark on the world and they are doing so in an extravagant manner.
The Chinese Super League (CSL), the premier soccer tournament in China, has shocked the soccer world as of late with their larger-than-life signings of some of the most notable and popular players in the world. In the past, the Super League made valiant attempts to bring world-class players to their country in order to boost popularity and bring more players to play in China. Unfortunately, they were not always successful, as most players who played in the top leagues would not even consider China as a viable option to play.
Some of the complaints players have had of China’s soccer league included government overreach in controlling the sport and the conditions of the soccer fields resulting in gruesome injuries. It was not until 2015 when China’s Prime Minister, Xi Jinping, made it clear he wanted his country to be a soccer powerhouse and not only did he want to see China host a FIFA World Cup, but to win it that very year. Upon hearing that news, top Chinese clubs like Hebei China Fortune, Shanghai SIPG, and Tianjin Quanjian started making outrageous offers to players who were rumored to consider leaving their respective clubs. Two years later, CSL have reached agreements with promising and talented players from all across the globe and have definitely made a name for themselves in terms of star power in a country’s soccer league.
Some of the more well-known names that have joined the Chinese League are Tim Cahill, Ezequiel Lavezzi and Oscar. Cahill is the top Australian goal scorer who gained popularity while playing for the New York Red Bulls. In 2015, Cahill joined Shanghai Shenhua, and last year joined Hangzhou Greentown after his first contract expired. Lavezzi is an Argentinian forward who plays alongside Lionel Messi on the national team. Lavezzi signed with Hebei China Fortune in 2016 and has played 10 games with the club, thus far.
Oscar is one of the more surprising signings, primarily because he played for Chelsea FC in England and there were many top clubs in Europe that wanted to acquire him for a lot of money. Oscar ended up spurning every European club and signed with Shanghai SIPG on a one year, 20.8 million Chinese yuan deal starting from 2017.
The Chinese Super League have made quite a splash with their world-class signings, but they hope there are more players willing to join. There have been rumors that a few clubs have offered superstars Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi 100 million yuan per year deals to play in China. Expect CSL to gain a following and sign more players in the future.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, January 24th print edition.
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