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Is football finally making its way home to China?

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If football truly is the opiate of the people, then China is the place to prove it.

Sport and politics are indivisible. As Diego Maradona said, “Football isn’t a game, nor a sport, it’s a religion.” And like religion, sport is politics. The Chinese love football and the government is well aware of the benefits of the beautiful game in promoting their own ideological agenda, nationalism and political unity. Furthermore, the ruling Communist Party (CCP) knows it must offer a compelling spectacle if it is to keep the population content.

Panem et circenses

With a new season across the European leagues well under way, and the January transfer window set to open on the first day of 2017, one country in particular has been turning heads from Madrid to Moscow: China. At the end of the summer, a state-owned consortium, Everbright, and a private equity firm PCP Capital Partners, made a multi-million-pound bid for Liverpool FC. Contrary to previous trends only a few years ago, this bid follows a recent pattern of Chinese investors buying stakes in major European clubs while teams in the Chinese Super League (CSL), the country’s top flight of professional football, have been making staggering purchases of some of the world’s best players.

Google any football player and add the word “China” after their name and you will see endless whisperings of Chinese clubs offering obscene amounts of money to lure their talents to the East. Announced only this week, Argentinian international Carlos Tevez is set to become the world’s highest earning player when he signs a contract with Chinese Super League club Shanghai Shenhua worth an astonishing £615k a week.

This is, however, no one-time phenomenon. Chelsea star Oscar has also just confirmed he will be joining former Chelsea manager André Villas-Boas at Chinese club Shanghai SIPG in a deal worth £60m. Also rumoured to be considering joining previous managers in China are Alexis Sanchez, who has been offered £500k a week to play under Manuel Pellegrini at Hebei China Fortune, and former England International John Terry, who finds himself in the middle of a £16m…

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