Is the Chinese Super League a danger to football’s status quo?

Not a day goes by recently, it seems, without reports that one of the world’s top football players is the target of a humongous transfer bid by a Chinese Super League team.

The latest player on the verge of a move to the Far East is Chelsea’s out-of-favour Brazilian star Oscar, who is the subject of a £60 million bid by Shanghai SIPG.

Oscar has reportedly already bid farewell to his Stamford Bridge teammates in return for a £400,000-a-week salary and will complete the move in the January transfer window.

The news has prompted Blues boss Antonio Conte to warn that the money in the Chinese Super League poses a “danger” to clubs around the world, while also saying that from a personal standpoint he understands Oscar’s decision.

‘Embarrassing’

Former Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher went one-step further, labelling Oscar’s decision “embarrassing,” accusing the 25-year old of turning his back on the chance to compete for the biggest trophies in the world in return for money.

Is Carragher right? Is Oscar greedy? Does winning trophies in Asia and other parts of the world mean less than winning in Europe?

Improving

While there is no disputing that the quality of the Chinese Super League lags far behind that of the top leagues in Europe, it is improving. China’s Guangzhou Evergrande have won the AFC Champions League twice in the last four years, beating their more illustrious Japanese and Korean rivals in the process. And while the Chinese league is still in its infancy, as the money attracts more top-quality foreign talent the quality of the league will definitely continue to improve.

The Kashima Antlers also demonstrated this week how Asian football has advanced, pushing Real Madrid to the limit in the final of the FIFA Club World Cup before losing out in extra time.

Tempting

Oscar, meanwhile, has several things to consider. Does he stay at Chelsea and continue to play a bit part in their title challenge, or move to Shanghai where he will be a guaranteed starter, paid a fortune, and be adored by hundreds of thousands of fanatical supporters?

Obviously it’s a tempting prospect to some players.

Paulinho, Gil and Renato Augusto have also proved that playing in China doesn’t affect your chances with the Brazil national squad.

Over the years, players have traditionally moved to far-flung leagues in search of a big pay-day in the twilight of their careers – think David Beckham and LA Galaxy – but the Chinese Super League is threatening to turn this on its head by tempting players in their prime.

This as Conte suggests, is worrying for European teams. What’s also worrying is that it could spark a new trend of greedy agents and players holding clubs to ransom in return for an improved salary, as Alexis Sanchez is reportedly doing at Arsenal.

But China and it’s massive paychecks are not for everyone. For every Graziano Pelle and Hulk there is a Wayne Rooney and Yaya Toure, players willing to reject China’s money in favour of a higher standard of football and the chance to compete against the world’s best opposition.

So while in the short term China may tempt Oscar and a few other young stars to quit Europe in search of wealth and adoration, European clubs will hardly be quaking in their football boots.

Richard Hazeldine

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