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China looms large over transfer window

Monday 6 February 2017

Simon Chadwick, Professor of Sports Enterprise at the University of Salford, said: ”What seemed like one of the quietest transfer windows in recent memory, was actually the most valuable winter window in six years (£215 million).

“This is likely to have left many people mystified, as most clubs spent little or nothing on new players. It is important to recognise that the sales of Oscar (£60 million) from Chelsea to Shanghai SIPG, and Odion Ighalo (£20 million) from Watford to Changchun Yatai, heavily skewed the value of transfers this January (accounting for 37% of the value of transactions).

“China has again loomed large this January, although in recent days its football has been relatively quiet as people have been on holiday celebrating the Chinese New Year. One reason for why European clubs have exercised restraint this window is that the market players has become progressively more challenging, with Chinese clubs bidding-up transfer fees and salaries.

“While some might point to recent interventions by the Chinese government to curb spending in football, Ighalo's move suggests that China's supposed football bubble is still some way away from bursting. Changchun are massive underachievers, while Ighalo has only scored one goal this season, and that was fifteen games ago. It would appear that European clubs simply are not prepared to pay what an overheated labour market is demanding, and they are therefore holding-off on purchasing new players until, perhaps, some moderation of the Chinese market emerges.

“At the same time there are several clubs, particularly in England, where owners are likely to have hedged in their January transfer dealings. There are at least two clubs (but probably more) where their owners held-off making new player purchases, as they anticipate the sale of their clubs to Chinese investors. Making high-cost signings clearly impacts upon the potential profit an outgoing owner might make. Overall, the European transfer window had the feeling of being a sideshow to the main event: the Chinese transfer window, which doesn't close until the end of February. Next week, China will star heading back to work after the holiday, and we should therefore expect player transfer rumours to intensify again. Odion Ighalo has proved that there are still some big name signings left in the system and, with China forever keen to make bold statements about their new found role in world football, this suggests there's some excitement to come in February.”

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Sam Wood

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