Football: La Liga chief tells China ‘not just about cash’

Singapore (AFP) – China’s cash-rich Super League needs to work on improving local talent as well as dipping into its deep pockets to attract top foreign players, the La Liga chief said Thursday.

Javier Tebas told AFP he was “not worried at all” about the best La Liga players being tempted by lucrative salary offers as the level of competition in Spain was already a strong incentive for them to stay on.

“Before they become really attractive for Spanish football players, the Chinese league needs to grow up a little bit,” said Tebas through a translator.

“You have so many good players of high level in Spain to keep (top players) playing there,” he added.

“They (China) not only need to buy players from outside, but they need to grow the level of the local players.”

Tebas spoke to AFP on the sidelines of the launch of La Liga’s office in Singapore as part of moves to expand their presence in Southeast Asia, a football-crazy region of more than 600 million people.

La Liga already has offices in Dubai, China and India.

“There are so many players, with so many stars that keep on playing in Spanish football. They are not tempted,” he said.

Despite an official crackdown on transfer fees and wages and a cut in the number of foreign players allowed, Chinese Super League clubs spent a record 396 million euros ($427 million) in the January-February transfer window.

This is 16 times the spending by La Liga, according to the BBC, although La Liga’s numbers were lowered by Real Madrid’s transfer ban and China’s longer transfer window.

Among the players who took the plunge into China were Argentina’s former Manchester United, Manchester City and Juventus striker Carlos Tevez and Chelsea’s Brazilian midfielder Oscar.

Tevez, 33, is reported to be on world-record wages of 730,000 euros a week with Shanghai Shenhua, while Oscar is reportedly banking 466,000 euros a week with Shanghai SIPG.

Such wages would put them at the top two of football’s wages list, above the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.

Chinese President Xi Jinping, a football fan, has previously stated his desire to have his country someday host and win a World Cup.

The government last year released a plan calling for China to become an elite football nation by 2050.

Spain’s La Liga currently plays host to the world’s three best players, as crowned by world football governing body FIFA in January.

Real Madrid’s Ronaldo was awarded FIFA’s best men’s footballer of 2016, while long-time Barcelona rival Lionel Messi took second.

Atletico Madrid forward Antoine Griezmann finished in third to complete a La Liga sweep of the top honours.

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