Chinese football after Evergrande

With the future of Evergrande Group in doubt over their debt issues, questions are continuing to rumble about the future of Guangzhou FC, the football club they own.

Guangzhou FC has dominated Chinese football since it was bought by Evergrande Group chairman Hui Ka Yan in 2010. They have won 8 Chinese titles, 2 FA Cups and 2 continental titles in the last ten years, along with recruiting numerous top talents worldwide. They have also been the centre for the somewhat controversial naturalization policy for the Chinese National Team.

In recent weeks, Guangzhou FC has sought government aid from the municipal government, an offer that is apparently being considered. Fabio Cannavaro has recently left the club, earning more than 1 million euros a month. They have also flopped out of the 2021 Chinese FA Cup, losing to third tier Qingdao Youth Island.

The future of Chinese football

For a long time, Guangzhou FC has been deemed the defacto Chinese National Team, along with Shandong and Beijing. Despite the estimated value of the squad at just over 20 million euros, the Chinese team has not progressed significantly.

With so much talent focused on three teams, there has been a lack of talent coming up through the system. Despite the best efforts of Guangzhou FC and their academy in Qingyuan, not a single high-quality footballer has come out of their academies. It was typified in the results of Guangzhou, Beijing and Shanghai Port at the 2021 AFC Champions League. All 3 teams sent reserves sides—across 13 games, they earned 1 point and scored 4 goals while conceding 41.

If it is true that Guangzhou FC is disappearing, there are questions about where the naturalized players will go. Alan Carvalho, Aloisio, Elkeson, Fernando Henrique, Ricardo Goulart and Tyias Browning will probably go elsewhere, whether in China or back in their home countries. Players at Guangzhou FC will probably take a haircut, which may flow through to the rest of the league or the entire Chinese football economy. It is well enough that Chinese footballers are vastly overpaid compared to their compatriots in South Korea, Japan and Australia.

I would also expect many current foreigners in Chinese football to head elsewhere in the next transfer window. Aaron Mooy should be leaving China at the first opportunity for more top-tier football. I also wouldn’t be surprised if players like Marouane Fellaini, Mousa Dembélé and Adrian Mierzejewski opted to return to Europe.

At the same time, if Chinese players start taking pay cuts, they may start looking overseas for opportunities. It may actually result in them realizing their potential, while a small number will have the chance to play in leagues around the world instead of staying in China. If players go overseas, there is enormous potential for Chinese players and the Chinese national team, so it will be interesting to see how that pans out.

In terms of clubs, it may create a more competitive league. If teams do not need to spend as much on players, they may focus on other aspects of their teams. There are many areas that clubs could focus on, such as academies and different long-term revenue-positive directions.

What do you think will happen? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

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