ZURICH • China has shot into the world's top five buyers of international football talent as global spending hits a record level, a Fifa report said on Friday.
Official amounts spent on players around the world hit US$4.79 billion (S$6.84 billion) in 2016, up 14.3 per cent on the previous year, according to the annual Fifa Transfer Matching System report.
England's Premier League clubs (US$1.37 billion), Germany (US$576 million), Spain (US$508.7 million) and Italy (US$508.5 million) were again the top spenders.
However, China's spending more than doubled in a year to US$451 million, taking it to fifth place, up from 20th.
Chinese clubs signed 159 players in international transfers in 2016. The total amount spent was a seven-fold increase on 2013, and was also around 344 per cent more than the rest of Asia combined, the Fifa report said.
Its spending was also more than twice the expenditure of France, which was the winner in transfer revenues. French clubs received US$246 million in 2016 to take first place, ahead of Portugal on US$240 million.
China catapulted to fifth on the list of spending on football player transfers.
Fifa said Chinese spending "skyrocketed" and that the growth was "unprecedented".
Last year, Shanghai SIPG bought Brazilian striker Hulk for more than US$55 million, while Jiangsu Suning also bought Brazil's Alex Teixeira for more than US$50 million.
Spending has shot up even further this year, with SIPG paying a reported US$63 million this month for Brazilian attacking midfielder Oscar, amid a host of new mega-bucks deals.
"One of the key objectives fuelling China's transfer drive is to raise the overall standard of football in the country so as to assist the national team in reaching the World Cup for only the second time in their history following their debut in 2002," said the Fifa report.
So far, however, the big-money imports have not helped the national side, who are struggling to qualify for the 2018 World Cup Finals in Russia.
Europe, especially the English Premier League, still dominates the global market. Uefa countries accounted for 8,346 of the 14,591 international transfers recorded by the report.
The Premier League's spending abroad, which came to US$1.37 billion, was more than 8 per cent higher than in 2015.
Brazil remains the biggest football exporter, sending 808 players to 118 different countries in 2016, according to the report, which does not include domestic transfers between two clubs in the same country.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE