China has been invading the European market in order to pursue footballers. The main goal of the Chinese groups is to increase the quality and the appeal of the Chinese football league. On the other side of the world, the big European clubs are ready to exploit this moment. According to Ed Woodward, the Administrator of Manchester United, China represents “A market where we can sell any player”.

Nowadays, China is a “salvation” market for the big European clubs. Thanks to the Chinese investments in football the European clubs can reassess the market of the players by over-evaluating the price of the footballers who otherwise might have to be depreciated.

There are a few examples out there that perfectly show off the power of China in this moment and their will to clean up the European market to boost their national football league. Let’s think about Oscar, the Brazilian midfielder that spent his last few years at Chelsea and that recently moved to China. Repeatedly, Juventus demonstrated its interest in the player but an eventual agreement with the Black-and-White of Turin would have meant a significant loss of profits for Antonio Conte’s team (Chelsea). In light of that, when Chelsea was approached by the Chinese investors, Oscar was happily sold to China. A similar situation happened to the former Juventus FC striker Carlitos Tevez and to Witsel, a player that was recently targeted by Allegri’s team. Just one-and-half years ago, the Argentine star joined Boca Juniors on a free-agent basis but in order to convince Tevez to relocate to the dragons’ country the Chinese investors paid €11 million for his tag. The injection of Chinese money in the football market has been beneficial for the Russian team Zenit as well. In fact, Witsel was recently pursued by over-evaluating his price-tag and by giving a serious wage to the player. A key factor that also explains the super-power of China in football is the agreements that powerful intermediaries such as Jorge Mendes established with the Chinese investors. Thanks to the connection with important players’ agents, the Chinese Super League is importing famous footballers in order to properly sell their image on the commercial market around the world.

Berlusconi and Han Li
Berlusconi and Han Li (Insidefoto)

Meanwhile, there are those who like Manchester City sold 13% to CITIC with an assessment seven times higher than that paid out in 2008 to acquire the club. No doubt, this is a great deal. It seems to be clear that while some companies see football as a way to move money out of China others see the continued expansion of China in football as an opportunity to scale up the cake of European football.

Football can be a big cross-cultural connector and if China will become an influential football nation will do it more to promote the country’s image with unimaginable results for any public relations firm. However, this is the indirect effect. What seems to be clear is that many Chinese operations in Europe are destined to end negatively.