As Brazilian midfield star Oscar contemplates a 60 million pound transfer from Chelsea to Shanghai SIPG in January, the world of football is asking what does the future hold for the Chinese Super League?
My verdict is that anyone who underestimates how serious the Chinese are, about becoming the football world’s next super power, had better think again – because this is a story that is only just starting to unfold.
In the summer I spent two weeks in Shanghai, Nanjing and Beijing, exploring the China Football Revolution. During my stay I was invited to spend time with Shanghai SIPG and experienced first hand a glimpse of the remarkable transformation taking place in the Chinese Super League.
I also attended the first match screened by Sky Sports that kicked off their new three year rights deal to broadcast CSL matches, when Shanghai Shenua beat Jiangsu Suning 3-2 in a thrilling contest.
What I saw first hand convinced me beyond any doubt that my decision to invest my own money in filming a documentary about the China Football Revolution is a gamble worth taking. This is not a story that is going to happen overnight. But over the next decade or so, the football landscape is going to change beyond all recognition as far as China is concerned.
Sven-Goran Eriksson was still the Shanghai SIPG coach, and the former England manager gave me a fascinating insight into what lies ahead. Since our meeting, Sven has been replaced by Andre Villas-Boas. The ex-Chelsea boss is being paid a staggering eleven million pounds a year.
The move reunites AVB with striker Hulk, whom he coached at Porto and Zenit St Petersburg, the Russian club he left earlier this year. Hulk is currently the third highest paid footballer in the world, with only Messi and Ronaldo on a better deal. And when Oscar joins them, he will leapfrog Hulk in the salary stakes.
The money on offer tells you all you need to know about how serious the Chinese are about growing the CSL into one of the strongest leagues in world football. But that is only part of the story. Watch my exclusive video report (published 27 October 2016) for more insight, and look out for my future updates.