Chinese Super League Buys Old and Tired European Players

by William Hague

Written in May 2016

President Xi Jinping loving Football Source:

President Xi Jinping loving Football Source:

President of China, Xi Jinping, is upset the world’s most populous country is failing at the world’s most popular game. That is the shallow explanation for why the Chinese Super League has enough money to buy some of the most talented players from Europe. All of the capital comes from the government which has its own concerns but people wonder if China can become the next hotbed location for football talent.

Xi Jinping want about 70,000 new public pitches built and 20,000 new football academies established to guarantee that new talent is found and developed (White). He has been clear the China is investing in a future World Cup victory but even he knows it might not be in his lifetime.

Zlatlan Ibrahimovic

Ibrahimovic for Paris Saint-Germain Source:

Ibrahimovic for Paris Saint-Germain Source:

For those who don’t know, Zlatlan Ibrahimovic is a swedish player, the captain on their national team, and a striker for Paris Saint-Germain. He is 34 years-old and is nearing the end of his career. Ibrahimovic’s contrast is up with PSG after the season and it is a  tough time to look at other opportunities when you know where ever you will go will not be for long. You also know, in Ibrahimovic’s position, that other top-tier teams will not offer you great salaries because they know that your skills are limited by your age.

His options are to either get signed by another powerhouse team like Arsenal, Manchester United, Chelsea, or Man City. The other opportunity he has is to go to the Chinese Super League. Some say that they think it would be a little too early for him to each to China because he still might have some good scoring years ahead of him (Peters).

China Super League gets a bad rap in the public for collecting diminishing stars and shelving them. There are a few people who think that reputation is false and the Chinese League can actually be a place to develop your career even further without it being a retirement victory lap. By just looking at the starts, the Chinese Super League is right on par with the MLS in term of attendance and viewership (Peters). Don’t forget that David Beckham played for the LA Galaxy and had a very valuable experience there

It is rumored that the Chinese are willing to pay $83 million for Ibrahimovic. It is in my opinion that the  conversation his head should be about opportunity and legacy and less about the salary. There is no uncertainty that Ibrahimovic has plenty of money from past teams and accomplishments. There is no reason for a player that himself to chase the money at this point in his career.

Across many players, there are many stories of players and coaches turning down offers from the China Super League because of opportunity not salary. They are loyal and they don’t want to play for a team they won’t enjoy. This demand is all part of China’s romantic views toward European football and the players, Some people think the European players and older players in general are wildly overvalued.

The restriction in the Chinese Super League for foreign players on the pitch is a max of 3 foreign players plus 1 player from an Asian football confederation (White). This leaves 7 native Chinese players still on the pitch. Journalist Ian Walker believes that in order to win a Chinese League Championship, you will need the best local players. Walker believes that clubs have a better opportunity to get better local players  not buying them, but developing them. The spending that we are currently seeing with China is unsustainable and youth development is the much better option to fill a team with talent when they get in the early to mid-20s (Walker)

How to cite this page: “Chinese Super League Buys Old and Tired European Players”, Written by William Hague (2016). The Chinese Super League, Soccer Politics Blog, Duke University, (accessed on (date)). 


Peters, Micah. “What If Zlatan Ibrahimovic Went to the Chinese Super League?” FOX Sports. N.p., 5 Apr. 2016. Web. 01 May 2016. <>.
Walker, Ian. “Chinese Football Domestic Transfers Out of Control Too.” That’s Mag. N.p., 19 Apr. 2016. Web. 1 May 2016. <>.
White, Jonathan. “Why Local Players Remain Vital for Chinese Super League Clubs, despite the Huge Transfer Splurge on Foreign Stars.” South China Morning Post. N.p., 25 Apr. 2016. Web. 01 May 2016. <>.