Football: CFA to cut foreigner quota in bid to stop buying frenzy

A poster depicting Chelsea striker Diego Costa at Stamford Bridge. The Spanish striker is reportedly unsettled after Chinese club Tianjin Quanjian put up an £80 million transfer bid plus £570,000 in weekly wages.
A poster depicting Chelsea striker Diego Costa at Stamford Bridge. The Spanish striker is reportedly unsettled after Chinese club Tianjin Quanjian put up an £80 million transfer bid plus £570,000 in weekly wages.PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING • The Chinese Football Association (CFA) announced yesterday that it is reducing the number of foreign players a team can field, even as the country's cash-rich clubs continue to lure international talents.

Teams in the top-flight Chinese Super League (CSL) will be able to field no more than three foreigners per match when the new season begins in March, according to new rules posted on the CFA website.

Previously, four non-Chinese players were allowed, provided one was from an Asian Football Confederation (AFC) country.

The CFA added in the statement that the rule change would be "advantageous for the overall development of Chinese football, for the cultivation of Chinese local footballers and for raising the level of China's national team".

The organisation said that it would also be taking action to curb the "recent appearance of irrational investments and the payment of high transfer fees and salaries for domestic and foreign footballers."

China broke the Asian transfer record for the fifth time in a year when Shanghai SIPG paid Chelsea €60 million (S$91 million) for Brazilian midfielder Oscar last month.

Across the city, Shanghai Shenhua were reportedly making new signing Carlos Tevez the world's best-paid player, with the Argentinian's weekly wages reportedly at £615,000 (S$1.06 million).

The duo were the latest in a stream of foreign players flowing into China in recent years in return for eye-watering sums, with Chelsea's unsettled Spain striker Diego Costa linked to the CSL as well.

Blues manager Antonio Conte, however, has said that he does not see the CSL as a threat to his team, despite reportedly falling out with Costa over a bid of around £80 million from Tianjin Quanjian.

"Money is not all. When you are playing for a big team like Chelsea, you must be pleased. It's a great honour to play for Chelsea. For this reason, I don't see a threat for my players," the Italian said.

"The Premier League is really competitive. I'm sure this league is the first in the world for a lot of positive things. And for this reason, these offers from China, I don't think are a threat for our league."

The Times of London has also reported that Costa rejected the offer of a new contract at Chelsea before last week's bust-up with Conte.

Chelsea are believed to have offered Costa a five-year deal worth £200,000 a week - a £50,000 weekly increase on his existing wages - but the striker was unwilling to commit himself to the club.

Tianjin are said to have laid out a counter-offer of £570,000 a week, and the Blues are reluctant to offer more than £200,000.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE TIMES, LONDON

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 17, 2017, with the headline 'CFA to cut foreigner quota in bid to stop buying frenzy'. Print Edition | Subscribe