No player beyond Chinese football clubs’ reach: Gao


London (AFP) – High-profile English Premier League players such as England captain Wayne Rooney could be targets for the cash-rich Chinese Super League, a leading Chinese sports event organiser said Tuesday.

Eric Gao, the man behind the International Champions Cup which this year pitches Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City against bitter rival Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United, says the Super League had to look elsewhere as the well of South America-based talent was running dry.

The Super League clubs’ world-leading 331 million euros ($365 million) binge on players this year, plus several Chinese companies and businessmen investing in European clubs like Inter Milan, Aston Villa and Atletico Madrid, comes right from the top.

Football-loving President Xi Jinping’s ambition is to turn China into a world soccer power, with successful clubs and a winning national team.

“The President of China re-organised the football system and this will keep the momentum going for dozens even hundreds of years,” said Gao, who flew in to London after witnessing England’s feeble performance in the Euro 2016 Last 16 2-1 defeat by Iceland in Nice, France.

“It will continue under him and will carry on after him. Chinese football will grow. Some people say it’s just a beginning and not the finish of it.

“Chinese people like to buy good assets and I think England and the Premier League clubs will become more and more of a target.”

Gao said more players of the calibre of Brazilian midfielder Ramires, bought from Chelsea for 28 million euros ($32 million) by Jiangsu Suning, and former Atletico Madrid striker Colombian international Jackson Martinez, would soon be on their way from Europe.

“I am working closely with the Beijing and Shanghai clubs on targeting players,” he said.

“Even last night I talked with people from UEFA and they said ‘Eric can you find us an agent to help buy some players’.

“For us from our point of view there are not many players left in South America, that well is drying up.”

Gao, who is also heavily involved with the NBA bringing the NBA Global Game to China and also organises the China Tennis Open, was unequivocal when asked whether clubs would have the financial power to attract players such as Rooney.   

“In terms of the Premier League, there are no limits. Chinese clubs will pay players two or three times more than they are at present,” said Gao, who was captivated by football when he went to the Beijing Stadium to watch his first match in 1997.

“The players would make more money at Chinese clubs.

“Beijing Guoan have drawn up a short list of top players from Manchester City who interest them. I cannot tell you any of their names as it would not be the opportune time to do so.”

Gao, who has also set in train nurturing young Chinese talent by signing an agreement with Arsenal last year to set up five to six schools in China by the end of this year, said Chinese Super League clubs would also welcome foreign investment themselves.

“They (the clubs) want to change their DNA,” said Gao.

“They would prefer people who already own a football club in Europe as they can bring their knowhow and also some players and maybe even sponsors.

“It would be like an international club marriage, an investment and not only a sports platform, but also a business one.”

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