Atletico Madrid stars lead the way in La Liga’s Chinese Super League exodus
The riches of China have acted as a strong pulling factor for many European-based players, but has this year’s window signalled a change in approach?
The transfer window for the Chinese Super League closes at the end of February, with the now annual tradition of a flux of talent leaving Europe for the Far East.
In previous years, China has been the destination for a series of Premier League stars with Brazilian duo Ramires and Oscar – both formerly of Chelsea – both now competing in the world’s fastest growing league.
Such were the vast sums of money being spent on foreign imports, new rules were introduced by the Chinese government to limit the volume of money being splashed on these stars.
Last year, it was announced that a 100% tax would be placed on transfers from abroad which were over 45 million yuan (approximately £5.2 million).
A shift in focus
This move greatly restricted the spending potential of the country’s club sides, with a shift in focus towards players whose values would not represent a significant loss.
As things stand, no English-based player has been tempted to the league but this is almost certainly a direct consequence of the new lays ruling out moves from Premier League clubs, who tend to inflate transfer fees due to their TV revenues.
Instead, the focus for Chinese clubs has been Spain’s La Liga, with the two standout deals financially seeing Villarreal striker Cedric Bakambu and Yannick Carrasco depart for Asia.
Congolese forward Bakambu’s move is of particular interest; it has still not been confirmed by his ‘new’ club Beijing Guoan, despite him playing and scoring for them.
Bakambu netted for 48 goals for the club since joining from Bursaspor in 2015 but his £35 million release clause at the Yellow Submarine was triggered by the Beijing-based club.
The delay in such an announcement is said to stem from the club’s refusal to pay the 100% import tax, with the striker forced to cancel his contract at Villarreal in order for him to appear in China.
With the addition of the tax, the 26-year-old would become the most expensive African player of all time.
Above and beyond
Bakambu’s transfer has been surpassed by Yannick Carrasco who is, without doubt, the star addition to the league this month having signed for Dalian Yifang.
The Belgian international was recently tipped as one of the hottest prospects in Europe, having initially moved to Atletico Madrid from Monaco in 2015.
He scored in the Champions League final in his opening season but his exit was sanctioned once a bid in the region of £65 million had been lodged.
“My ambition is to go to the World Cup and that remains intact,” Carrasco said to Marca in an attempt to quell concerns regarding his move.
“My distance from the continent of Europe does not impact my chances and I must prove with my performances that I am ready to play with the Red Devils in Russia this summer.”
“The project convinced me and motivated me, the new infrastructures are modern and will allow me to improve as a player.”
The Spanish exodus
Carrasco was not the only Atletico Madrid player to join Dalian, as former Benfica playmaker Nicolas Gaitan also made the move for £16 million.
These transfers appear extravagant and somewhat unusual but are partly explained by reports that Chinese conglomerate Wanda (who sponsor Atletico’s Wanda Metropolitano stadium) have assumed a controlling stake of the club.
A series of other Spanish-based players have made the move east, with Las Palmas attacking star Jonathan Viera joining Bakambu at Beijing Guoan and Augusto Fernandez also leaving Diego Simeone’s team to link-up with Beijing Renhe.
Earlier this season, Javier Mascherano swapped Barcelona for Hebei China Fortune while former Cardiff City defender Juan Cala joined Henan Jianye from Getafe.
These moves appear to represent canny pieces of business by the Chinese clubs and a concerted move to find ‘value’ in the market and save on their imposed tax.
It is possible that these government interventions will be removed in future to bolster the continued growth of the league yet for now, Spanish clubs are the target of China’s transfer business.
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