The persistent rumour that Javier Mascherano will move to the Chinese Super League (CSL) to join Hebei Fortune is edging closer to becoming reality in the coming months. It has been claimed in various media outlets today that Hebei has agreed on a transfer fee with Barcelona in the region of £10.5m. His monthly salary hasn’t been revealed but it’s like to be an insanely lucrative package as has been the case with other ‘star’ players brought to China.
The CSL still seems to be following in the path of the original MLS by importing star names past their best and handing them inflated contracts. Oscar is debatably the only European player who has made the move in his prime from a club which could be considered ‘big’, while other foreign players have either moved from small to medium-sized clubs, are coming to the end of their career or have been imported from South America and are relatively unknown.
The CSL implemented new rules recently to kind of mirror a similar set-up in Germany by stating all league clubs need to pay 100% tax on foreign imports with that money being funnelled back into the youth system. As well as this another rule has been applied which states the number of native under 23 players must match the number of foreigners in the first team squad.
The Chinese Football Association (CFA) will be hoping this has the intended effect of creating higher quality Chinese players which will eventually raise the level of the national team. We won’t see any time soon if these rule changes will reap the rewards they are clearly aimed at achieving and as with anything related to youth football you have to think of the bigger picture and the long-term goal.
Short term it’s hard to see how importing foreigners coming to the end of their career will benefit the national team. Will the short-term benefits of using foreigners to raise the level of the CSL damage the long-term goal or will the long-term goal of developing quality Chinese players to eventually have a national team that qualifies for World Cups not be affected?