Chinese Super League can be the best: La Liga boss

Elkeson De Oliveira Cardoso (right) of Shanghai SIPG competes for the ball with Li Yunqiu of Shanghai Shenhua during their Chinese Super League match on March 11, 2016.
Elkeson De Oliveira Cardoso (right) of Shanghai SIPG competes for the ball with Li Yunqiu of Shanghai Shenhua during their Chinese Super League match on March 11, 2016. PHOTO: AFP

The head of Spain's La Liga believes the cashed-up Chinese Super League is not far from becoming one of the world's top football competitions - but he hopes Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are not headed there just yet.

Javier Tebas also said in Singapore yesterday that he welcomed China's burgeoning interest in football, which includes investments in Spanish clubs Atletico Madrid and Espanyol.

Former Atletico striker Jackson Martinez, signed for €42 million (S$64.4 million) by Guangzhou Evergrande, was one of the big signings in China's lavish spree during the recent transfer window.

But Tebas said he hoped Barcelona and Real Madrid superstars Messi and Ronaldo are not about to join China's growing band of expensive foreign imports.

"You'll have to ask them that but I certainly hope not," he said, adding: "There are enough football stars to go around.

"Even though some improvement is needed at the moment, it's slowly raising its standard," Tebas said of the CSL. "In a few years, if the standard is better, it can become among the top in the world. All of us will reap the benefits because it means we can all work together to increase standards."

A pre-retirement stint would be more likely for Messi and Ronaldo if they were tempted by China.

Tebas said China's investments in La Liga were a "good opportunity" for Spanish clubs as they raised teams' profiles in the massive Chinese market.

Wanda Group, owned by Chinese billionaire Wang Jianlin, has a 20 per cent stake in Atletico, and a Chinese model car-maker is the majority owner of Espanyol.

"Because they have an interest in the league, we feel it's a good opportunity because this helps their investment," Tebas said. "It also allows the teams to have an increased profile in China."

The Spaniard also said La Liga's ability to retain key players would depend on its spending power, although he is confident Spanish clubs would remain competitive in the transfer market.

"This is an issue of finance, whether the La Liga is still growing," he said. "If we continue on that path, and have enough future resources, we will be able to keep our players."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 18, 2016, with the headline 'Chinese Super League can be the best: La Liga boss'. Print Edition | Subscribe