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"The money they're throwing at the sport is ridiculous": Chinese dragon set to roar

Soccer

As Sydney FC prepare for a mammoth task against Guangzhou Evergrande, coach Graham Arnold is resigned to Chinese clubs eventually dominating the Asian Champions League.

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China’s lavish spending on European and South American talent has been increasing in recent years, but it raised the stakes dramatically in last month’s transfer window.

Case in point is Guangzhou’s $65 million purchase of Colombian international Jackson Martinez from Atletico Madrid, which broke Asia’s transfer record but only for three days before Jiangsu Suning paid Shakhtar Donetsk $76 million for Alex Teixeira.

There appears to be no limit to the outlay involved in President Xi Jinping’s football revolution, driven by his dream to turn the Middle Kingdom into a global superpower that can one day win a World Cup.

Former England and current Shanghai SIPG manager Sven-Goran Eriksson said last week he believed that could happen within 10 years.

It’s certainly making waves abroad, with Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger expressing concern about how the English Premier League might suffer if China continues to sign Europe-based stars on exoribitant salaries.

The issue in Asia is more one of equality.

Evergrande have won the ACL in two of the past three years.

As they aim for another, some are wondering whether they and other big clubs, such as Teixeira’s and Ramires’ new home Jiangsu, will be stopped in the future.

Ahead of tonight’s match with Sydney at Allianz Stadium, Evergrande’s World Cup-winning coach Luiz Felipe Scolari bristled when asked if it was fair to pit a side which invested more than $100 million in four foreign stars against an A-League team operating under a $4 million salary cap.

Sydney’s players insist the chasm of wealth leaves the burden of expectation on their opponents, and are drawing inspiration from the way Western Sydney beat Guangzhou on their way to the 2014 title.

“It’s the nature of the beast,” said Arnold .

“In Australia we have a salary cap controlled by the head organisation. It’s the way it is. China don’t have a salary cap.

“You see they just bought Martinez for $65 million – that would fund the whole league and whole code in this country… but good luck to them, they’ve got massive plans.

epa05178613 Guangzhou Evergrande's Colombian striker Jackson Martinez (L) in action against against Pohang's Bae Seulgi (R) during the AFC Champions League group H soccer match between Guangzhou Evergrande FC and Pohang Steelers in Guangzhou, southern China, 24 February 2016. The match, in which Jackson Martinez made his debut for Chinese club Guangzhou Evergrande, ended 0-0.  EPA/KALYL SILVA CHINA OUT

Colombian striker Jackson Martinez takes on Pohang’s Bae Seulgi in his debut for Guangzhou Evergrande. Photo: KALYL SILVA, EPA.

“Guangzhou Evergrande has led the way in the past few years with Marcello Lippi before Scolari.

“When you’ve got the president of China saying he wants to win a World Cup within 20 years, the money they’re throwing at the sport is ridiculous.

“It’s definitely going to revolutionise Asian football, who knows how far they can go?”

-AAP

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