Ex-England manager says huge investment starting to pay off as Xi Jinping vows to turn China into footballing superpower
“Yes, of course, the Premier League should be worried.” “Because China looks to have the financial power to move a whole league of Europe to China.
“We are long enough in this job to know that it’s just a consequence of economic power and they have that. Will they sustain their desire to do it? Let’s remember, a few years ago, Japan started to do it and slowed down after. I don’t know how deep the desire in China is, but if there’s a very strong political desire, we should worry.” – Arsène Wenger, Manager Arsenal FC
Photo: Michael Dodge/Getty Images
Sven-Göran Eriksson: ‘I’m at the right place at the right time. You can feel how football is growing in China.’
China could lift the World Cup within a decade, former England manager Sven-Göran Eriksson has claimed, as Xi Jinping pushes on with his football revolution.
The Chinese president, lionized by Communist party spin doctors as a die-hard football fan, has vowed to turn China into a footballing superpower as well as an economic one.
Construction work has begun on thousands of football academies since he took office in late 2012, as part of the president’s roadmap to transform his country’s on-field fortunes. Top European and South American clubs and coaches have been invited to help China revive its domestic game.
Chinese National Soccer Team
Speaking ahead of an Asian Champions League (ACL) clash between his current side, Shanghai SIPG, and Melbourne Victory, Eriksson claimed those efforts were paying off, saying: “The future for China is great.”
“I think I’m at the right place at the right time. You can always feel how football is growing in China,” he added, according to Xinhua, Beijing’s official news agency.
“I’ve been in Italy during the 90s when every player wanted to come to Italy because the football was very good, then I was in England during the 2000s and all the players wanted to go to the Premier League because of more money and the good football,” Eriksson said.
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“Now, in 2016, it seems that every player wants to come to China for the same reasons. [All the money] will make the clubs much stronger. Maybe 10 or 15 years ahead, I’m sure China’s national team will compete well [enough] to win the World Cup.”
China’s determination to use its munificence to boost the beautiful game has been underlined in recent weeks with a series of high-profile arrivals in the Chinese Super League, which was only founded in 2004.
Among star players signed by Chinese clubs during the latest transfer window are £20m Brazilian Ramires from Chelsea, £31m Colombian striker Jackson Martínez and £38.4m Brazilian midfielder Alex Teixeira.
“China is the new El Dorado,” the Brazil coach and World Cup winner Dunga said last year.
The Chinese spending spree has prompted warnings, however, including from the Arsenal manager, Arsène Wenger, who believes Premier League clubs should be concerned “because China looks to have the financial power to move a whole league of Europe to China”.
Eriksson’s predictions about the future of China’s national team are even more optimistic than those of Beijing itself. The Chinese dragons currently are ranked 93rd in the world. Speaking last year, the president of the Chinese Football Association, Cai Zhenhua, said: “The development of Chinese soccer must be a long process. It’s not three years or five years, it’s not eight or 10 years.”