Never in my widest dreams did I ever think I would write about football. It’s not my game and never has been. I always preferred Rugby,rallying, and more recently, treking in the Polar regions and other cold places (like Wales!).
So why am I writing about football?
It’s because of what is happening in China.
In the last transfer window, Chinese clubs decided to go on a major player acquisition drive. Not just on quantity but quality. In total, the Chinese league spent more on players than the EPL – the richest league in the world buying some of the best players from the major teams across Europe.
Like all things Chinese, there is more to this than meets the eye.
The Chinese Premier Mr Xi is a passionate football fan who is desperate to see the Chinese league become one of the world’s best. He has seemingly encouraged the clubs, largely owned by fabulously wealthy entrepreneurs to buy the foreign talent to drag the quality up. In time, the hope will be that a Chinese Messi is discovered for commercial purposes as well as national pride. As a result of the transfer activity, major international sports brands are increasing their business in China. Adidas announced their hugely ambitions plans yesterday and we now wait for Nike to follow.
The issue around national pride is actually quite interesting. MLS in America has also been on a major recruitment drive. To be honest though, even I know they have been trying to do that on and off since the 70s and I am not sure the foreigners who have just arrived are as good at playing or drawing crowds as George Best and Pele. From what I can determine the players are more towards the end of their game than the top of it.
One thing I do know, is China won’t wait 40 years for something to be successful. They are prepared to spend the money and put in the effort now.