Chinese President Xi Jinping’s dream of his country winning the World Cup could come true in a decade, former England coach Sven-Goran Eriksson said, according to reports.
“Now, in 2016, it seems that every player wants to come to China for the same reasons,” Eriksson, now the manager of Shanghai SIPG, said in Australia ahead of an Asian Champions League match against Melbourne Victory.
“Maybe 10 or 15 years ahead, I’m sure China’s national team will compete well to win the World Cup,” he was cited as saying by the official news agency Xinhua.
Under avowed football fan Xi, China has made success at the sport a political priority, rolling out a 50-point plan to build thousands of football academies and cultivate domestic talent.
Xi specifically declared that hosting, qualifying for, and winning a World Cup were national goals, even though the country is currently ranked a lowly 93rd in the world by FIFA.
Chinese Super League clubs have spent an unprecedented 317 million euros ($349 million) during the current winter transfer window, which closes on Friday, to bring in foreign stars, many of them internationals.
The Chinese transfer fee record has been smashed four times during the period, culminating in Jiangsu Suning paying Shakhtar Donetsk 50 million euros ($55 million) for Alex Teixeira.
“It’s not only the top of football in China that’s getting bigger and richer,” Eriksson said Tuesday, “also the Chinese clubs are opening football schools more or less every day, and young boys and girls will start to play football.
“The future for football in China is great I’m sure about that.”
Eriksson came to China to coach Guangzhou R&F in 2013.
His current club paid 18.5 million euros ($20.3 million) to sign Brazilian striker Elkeson from Guangzhou Evergrande last month.