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The new rule that will make it harder for China to sign great soccer stars

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Foreign players will not be able to charge more than three million euros net, a salary below what they charge at major European clubs

After nearly a decade of rampant spending, Chinese football tightens its belt. The Chinese Football Association (CFA) unveiled new rules that restrict the salary for foreign players to a maximum of 3 million euros after taxes, a measure reported by the state news portal ‘China.org.cn’, has the support of the country’s clubs. That limit, although flexible, will make it difficult to sign great players like Gareth Bale, who last summer received an offer from the Chinese Super League.

This new salary cap is aimed at preventing Chinese teams from spending too much money, according to the new CFA president Chen Xuyuan. “Our teams have burned too much money and our professional football has not been conducted in a sustainable way. If we don’t take action on time, I’m afraid it will collapse,” he said.

Likewise, the CFA imposed a limit on the total expenditure of each team for the 2020 season (which will probably start in March) of 1,100 million yuan (142 million euros), and at most 60% of that figure can be dedicated to paying salaries. In 2021, the spending limit will be 900 million yuan (116 million euros) and the percentage dedicated to salaries may be a maximum of 55%.

The Chinese Super League, the highest division in the country, achieved notoriety since the middle of the decade due to unbridled spending to attract world stars to an expanding football since the country’s president, Xi Jinping, set the goal of becoming a world power by 2050. In fact, according to the magazine ‘Forbes’, two of the twenty highest-paid soccer players in the world play in China: the Italian striker Graziano Pellè, who receives 20.7 million dollars (18.6 million euros) from Shandong Luneng, and Brazilian midfielder Oscar, who charges 27 million dollars (24.3 million euros) from Shanghai SIPG.

However, despite the new rules, the specialized press has already pointed out that the salary cap would only affect the base salary and not other premiums, and that the contracts in force would not have to conform to the new rules, which would only apply to signings and renewals from January 1.

The Chinese state media cited several executives of the main teams in the country: while the big ones recognized that it would be difficult to adjust to smaller budgets, clubs that do not have so much money praised the measure considering that it will be beneficial for its long-term development.

The CFA also announced that it will increase the number of foreign players that can play at the same time in each match from the current three to four. Those announced this week are not the first measures taken to try to avoid excessive spending by Chinese clubs. In mid-2017, the CFA approved a 100% tax on the signings of foreign players for more than 45 million yuan (5.8 million euros).

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