Football: Oscar signing may spark fresh China buying spree

Oscar celebrating after scoring a goal during the English Premier League football match between Chelsea and Swansea City.
Oscar celebrating after scoring a goal during the English Premier League football match between Chelsea and Swansea City. PHOTO: EPA

SHANGHAI • Chelsea's Oscar said yesterday that he is looking forward to joining his "new family", after Shanghai SIPG sealed terms on what will be China's fifth Asian- record signing in less than a year.

The 25-year-old Brazil midfielder, snared for a reported £60 million (S$106 million), becomes the latest top player in his prime being lured to the mega-rich Chinese Super League.

He is due to finalise the deal in Shanghai in the "coming days", said the Chinese club, who are coached by former Tottenham Hotspur manager Andre Villas-Boas.

"I'm very happy to sign for SIPG. This is an important day for me to join my new family in China," Oscar said in a video statement released by the club.

He will also become Chelsea's biggest sale, beating compatriot David Luiz's £50 million move to Paris Saint-Germain in 2014.

  • S$579m

  • Player spending by the Chinese Super League this year.

Chinese Super League clubs have already splashed out more than US$400 million (S$579 million) on players this year, after President Xi Jinping laid out a vision of turning the country into a football power.

Chinese teams broke the Asian record three times in just 10 days in the January-February transfer window, and again when Brazil's Hulk joined SIPG for €55.8 million (S$84.4 million) in July.

Significantly, these clubs are competing with European rivals for world-class players, who are opting for China's astronomical pay packets over the chance of a career in football's top leagues.

Oscar's former Chelsea team-mate Ramires, 29, and Alex Teixeira, 26, are other highly-rated Brazilians in their 20s to join the Super League for record sums this year. Other renowned players in China include Jackson Martinez, 30, and Ezequiel Lavezzi and Graziano Pelle, both 31.

According to reports, some of the players are now among the highest-paid footballers in the world.

Oscar is reportedly set to become the highest-paid player in the Chinese league, earning about £400,000 a week.

A Chelsea statement said Oscar will join SIPG at the start of the January transfer window, noting he has won the English Premier League, League Cup and Europa League titles during his 41/2 years at the west London club.

He has been a target of Villas-Boas since the Portuguese managed Tottenham in the 2012-13 season, but opted to join Chelsea then instead.

Last week, current Blues manager Antonio Conte, when asked to comment on Oscar's impending transfer, called China's financial muscle "a danger for all teams in the world".

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has also expressed concern that more players could be drawn by the riches on offer.

He said yesterday: "I think Oscar moves because he doesn't play much at Chelsea. China gives him that opportunity and they invest a lot of money to create a big force. It could become a problem in future for the Premier League."

The Chinese state media has also warned of a "bubble" developing in China's football industry, saying total spending this year had topped US$1 billion.

The breakneck spending shows no sign of slowing, however, with Argentinian forward Carlos Tevez also expected to move to China when the transfer window opens next month.

He is set to move to Shanghai Shenhua, with his wages reportedly £615,000 a week.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 24, 2016, with the headline 'Oscar signing may spark fresh China buying spree'. Print Edition | Subscribe