There was a time when the Premier League looked in danger of losing its star players, as the might of the financial clout of the leagues in the Far East began to test the loyalties of players in England’s top flight. The Chinese Super League, and to a certain extent the J-League, have posed the biggest threat to the Premier League’s popularity. However, in recent times the number of players jumping ship in the prime of their careers has been decreasing.
That wasn’t always the case; when Oscar made the move to Shanghai SIPG from Chelsea at the age of 25, there were many left scratching their heads wondering if this could be the start of a mass exodus. It was only a year prior when Graziano Pelle made the shock move to Shandong Luneng from Southampton during a time where he was making a name for himself on England’s South Coast.
The footballing logic behind these decisions is hard to make sense of, especially given that the Premier League is typically seen as the world’s most popular league, and arguably the league which showcases the most quality.
Money as we so often hear doesn’t buy happiness, and despite huge annual salaries most of the players that go over to China or Japan don’t stay long. When quizzed about his move to China, Pelle said he only moved to China because of the money, that’s honest of the Italian to admit but the footballing world probably have guessed as much. Sadly for him, the Italian Football Federation has left him out in the cold since his move to China in 2016, the price to pay for being lured into these bumper contracts can be quite clear.
— Transferchanger (@TransferChanger) February 1, 2019
So why are we seeing players return and fewer purchases being made by these exceptionally wealthy clubs? The bubble seemed to burst when a transfer tax of 100% was added in China. The Chinese Super League has been hit by this after the Chinese FA set about trying to develop their football at youth level. It has certainly stemmed the flow of transfers and even scuppered a few deals, Diego Costa’s £64m move to Tianjin Quanjian crumbled after it turned out the club would effectively have to pay £128m, double the amount.
The J-League, which doesn’t have the same buying power as the Chinese Super League, hasn’t imposed such a hefty tax yet but they have always focused more on tempting players to make the move only once their careers at the top end of professional football have ended.
This may be the reason it is turning into the new retirement league for Europe’s best players. Vissel Kobe, for instance, have signed Andres Iniesta, Lukas Podolski and David Villa in a bid to win the 2019 league. Anyone looking at the J-League betting at William Hill will see just why they are fancied to do just that. However, regardless of how they perform they have still managed to increase the commercial revenue of their club by bringing these world-famous players over.
— Andrés Iniesta (@andresiniesta8) January 22, 2019
This poses less of a problem for the Premier League’s business model of attracting the best players from around the world, when players who could be considered the stars of yesteryear are leaving for the Far East on a free at the back end of their careers.
Clubs won’t be forced to sell anymore after receiving offers they can’t refuse now that the Chinese FA have tied the hands of the owners of the clubs in their league. The temptation may still be there to earn more, but it’s not exactly like the Premier League is paying peanuts as Alexis Sanchez’ weekly salary of £315,000 will attest to.
The pull is now definitely weakening, as fewer players in their prime are snapped up but that doesn’t mean the temptation won’t rear its head again at some stage. It’s unlikely that the owners of the clubs in the Chinese Super League will take this lying down, and if there is a loophole to explore then explore they will but for now, it’s all quiet on the Western Front.