DAVID SHONFIELD: Chinese firepower shakes up market

There has always been a case for abolishing the winter transfer window, except for genuine emergencies.

The case looks stronger than ever now that Chinese clubs, many with state backing, are prepared to double or even treble transfer fees and wages.

Because the time allowed to conclude deals is so brief it puts extra pressure on clubs, above all smaller clubs who are at a big disadvantage if someone poaches one of their prime assets. The pressure is greatest when there is no winter break, or just a few days. Buy in haste, repent at leisure.

Recruitment is still hit and miss, even at top clubs such as Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain. This is particularly surprising at City, who have a well-defined long-term strategy.

Less so at PSG, where there has been tension over the role of director of football ever since Leonardo followed Carlo Ancelotti out of the club.

One reason for unbalanced squads and costly errors is that clubs are reluctant to accept that talent and commitment don’t simply plug in when players move.

N’Golo Kante would almost certainly have been a success wherever he went — it’s a mystery there wasn’t more competition for him. But for every Kante there are a dozen good players whose form suffers when they switch, and who can’t produce to the same level as before, at least for the first year.

Character is as important as ability. And also a team’s ability to adapt itself to new talent. The chemistry is especially problematic with January transfers because the pressure is to have new recruits in the line-up as soon as they are registered.

PSG are taking a risk by now throwing money at their problems with the impending purchase of Julian Draxler from Wolfsburg for a sum reported at €45m.

Unlike the situation 12 months ago, when the transfer market was unusually quiet in advance of Euro 2016, this will be the first of several significant deals. There is a lot of money around, and the fees and wages being quoted for players moving to China are unsettling.

As always, the value of these moves seems to vary depending on who you believe.

Take the case of Oscar, which seems to have raised more hackles than any other transfer, largely because of his age. People seem to agree that Oscar is going to Shanghai SIPG for 60m, but 60m what

? Euro seems more likely than pounds and that is actually less than was being bandied about for Oscar last January and much the same as the same club paid Zenit St Petersburg for Hulk last summer.

The monstrous wage packet is similar as well.

The pattern was set a year ago when Jackson Martinez was sold to Guangzhou Evergrande and Alex Teixeira moved to Jiangsu Suning.

All the top Chinese clubs are jostling for prestige, and the context is the state plan to propel the country into the top league of football nations over the next decade and achieve superpower status by 2050.

2050 is a long way off, and just as well because realistically China has a long way to go. A key part of the plan is obviously the World Cup, and currently China are struggling on just two points in their qualifying group for 2018, with almost no hope of even making an Asian play-off.

In any case, only a limited number of players will be able to cash-in as the Chinese are in the process of reducing the quota of foreigners to a maximum of four per club.

It is awkward for European clubs that the Chinese can gazump them, as was the case with Teixeira, who was a Liverpool target, and as may be the case with Alex Witsel, currently a target for Juventus. But that’s likely to be a marginal issue compared to the Chinese takeover boom within Europe.

“It’s a defeat for Italian football,” said Gigi Buffon recently of the Chinese takeovers of the two Milan clubs.

That seems narrow-minded. But these deals, like the Chinese takeovers in England, will raise big questions about financial fair play.


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