Carlos Tevez, Oscar and John Obi Mikel play in the Far East but can Chinas setup match their ambitions?
CLUBS in Chinas top flight spent 208million in the January 2016 transfer market, more than the 185million spent by Premier League sides.
The likes of Carlos Tevez, Oscar and John Obi Mikel now ply their trade there. But whats it really like in the cash-rich Chinese Super League?
The Chinese Super League is the top flight of football in China. It is run by the Chinese Football Association and is contested by 16 teams. It features a host of big names including ex-Premier League stars Carlos Teves, Demba Ba and Oscar.
But with the aim of developing the national team, clubs are only allowed five foreign players in their squads, with only four allowed on the pitch at any point, including a slot for a player from an Asian Football Confederation country.
The season runs from February or March to November or December. The two bottom placed teams at the end of the season are relegated to the China League One. The top three teams qualify for the Asian Champions League. The league was formed in 2004 when the old Chinese Jia-A League was rebranded with the goal to raise the level of the game.
Current champions Guangzhou Evergrande have dominated in recent years, claiming the last six titles more than any other team has managed. Shandong Luneng have three titles. Shanghai clubs SIPG and Shenhua battle out one of the fiercest rivalries in the league.
Guangzhou Evergrande have dominated in recent years, making it to the Club World Cup semi-final with Barcelona in 2015
What former Premier League players are now in China?
Former Manchester City and West Ham starCarlos Tevez signed for Shanhai Shenhua from Boca Juniors in a deal worth 615,000-a-week.
It is reported Shenhua paid Boca 71.6m to land the Argentine striker, 32.
Oscar joined Shenhuas rivals, Shanghai SIPG, in a 52m deal in December.
The Brazilian, 25, is on a 400k-a-week deal at the Chinese club.
He links up with national team-mate Hulk at SIPG.
Another player poached fromChelsea is midfielder John Obi Mikel.
The Nigerian took to Twitter to announce he had signed for Tianjin TEDA at a time the Chinese Super League is really raking off.
Mikel, 29, is thought to have signed a deal worth 140k-a-week.
Demba Bajoined Shanghai Shenhua from Besiktas in 2015 for a reported 12.4million. Before that he played for Chelsea, Newcastle and West Ham. The 31-year-old striker signed a three-year deal with an estimated 5.3million salary and scored 14 goals in 18 Super League games last season. He suffered a horrific leg break in July that ruled him out for the rest of the season.
Yet another former Chelsea player,Ramires, joined Jiangsu Suning in January with his Blues switch believed to be worth 25m. The Brazil midfielder, 29, was sent off on his debut in a 3-2 win over Jeonbuk Motors in the Asian Champions League. He is paid a reported 11.4million a year or nearly 1m a month.
Former Tottenham midfielderPaulinhomade a 10million switch to Guangzhou Evergrande in 2015. The Brazilian midfielder, 28, was thought to earn a 30,000 rise on his 55,000 weekly Spurs pay when he made the move.
Ex-Arsenal strikerGervinholeft Roma for Hebei China Fortune in a 12million January move. The 29-year-old Ivory Coast international reportedly tripled his wages with the switch.
Italy strikerGraziano Pelle, 31, was enjoying a prolific spell at Southampton when he left for Shandong Luneng at the end of last season for an estimated 12million fee and 13.5m salary.
Former England bossSven Goran Erikssonhas taken the reins from Clarence Seedorf at second-tier club Shenzhen after parting ways with Shanghai SIPG in November. Ex-Chelsea and Tottenham managerAndre Villas-Boastook over from him in Shanghai.
Gus Poyethas taken over at rivals Shanghai Shenhua for the new season. The former Sunderland boss was sacked by his last club Real Betis.
World Cup winning managerLuiz Felipe Scolarihas been in the hot seat at reigning champions Guangzhou Evergrande since 2015. The former Brazil boss has won two Super League titles, one Asian Champions League and the Chinese FA Super Cup with the side.
Manuel Pellegrinislotted into the top job at Hebei China Fortune after leaving Manchester City to make way for Pep Guardiola at the end of last season. AndFelix Magath, who led Bayern Munich to back-to-back Bundesliga titles in 2005 and 2006, now manages Shandong Luneng.
The Chinese government is determined to raise the level of football in the country, with the target to host and win a World Cup. President Xi Jinping is a football fan and has encouraged investment from private, public and national sectors.
Rights and sponsorship deals for the Super League have rocketed, with China Media Capital buying broadcasting rights in a deal worth 1billion over the next five seasons. This is a massive annual increase from the 7million the league received from television rights in 2015.
The most valuable team is Guangzhou Evergrande, which Forbes valued at 222million based on revenue, squad market value, success, brand power, owner wealth and market size.
Most teams in Chinas top flight are backed by large companies and billionaires. Evergrande is owned by one of the countrys biggest construction companies and internet firm Alibaba, while Jiangsu Sunings owners are retailers Suning Commerce Group. Hebei China Fortune is owned by China Fortune Land Development.
These companies have huge spending power, while the brand exposure the league brings is thought to raise the profile of the firms who invest. However, clubs often report operating losses, with Guangzhou Evergrande reporting losses of 157million last year.
But the sport faces little competition in China, unlike in the US where the MLS has to compete with American football, basketball, baseball and ice hockey. The 1.35 billion inhabitants of the country - almost double the population of Europe - represent a huge potential audience, while European leagues such as the Premier League can enjoy only limited ratings success due to games being played in the middle of the night.
With clubs paying huge sums to bring in showcase signings, while also investing in academies, China could become a global footballing force in the future.
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