Commentary

Conte: 'The Chinese market is a danger for all'

The pending sale of Brazilian midfielder Oscar to Chinese club Shanghai SIPG for a reported 60 million pounds ($80 million) is part of what Chelsea manager Antonio Conte sees as a grave threat to Europe’s biggest clubs.

Oscar, 25, has fallen out of the first team for one of the few times at Chelsea since his move from Internacional in 2012 despite scoring 22 goals in 130 matches. According to the Guardian, he will not play again for the first team as the club sorts out the details of its biggest sale in team history. Two years ago, it sold defender David Luiz to Paris St. Germain for 50 million pounds ($65 million), only to buy him back last summer for 34 million ($50 million).

If the deal goes through, Oscar will play for former Tottenham manager Andre Villas-Boas and earn salary of 350,000 pounds ($438,000) per week. Another Chinese club, Hebei Chinese Fortune, is reportedly preparing a bid for Arsenal forward Alexis Sanchez that will pay him 400,000 pounds ($500,000) per week.

Few teams can pay such astronomical salaries. In August, the Daily Mail reported that recently signed midfielder Paul Pogba would top the salary charts worldwide at 290,000 pounds per week paid by Manchester United. Cristiano Ronaldo supposedly set a new benchmark recently by agreeing to a contract worth 440,000 pounds a week from Real Madrid.

But a pending deal for Carlos Tevez could dwarf those salaries. If the numbers being reported by The Sun are accurate, Shanghai Shenhua – the team that signed and then lost Didier Drogba, who went to Turkish club Galatasaray and then Montreal Impact of MLS – is prepared to pay 615,000 million pounds ($770,000) per week to Tevez.  He left Europe after nine seasons to supposedly end his career back in his native country with Boca Juniors, with which he started his pro career in 2001. That pencils out to about $40 million – after tax -- a year.

Not every top player who has gone to China has profited as expected -- in January, 2013 Drogba returned after six months after he and several other high-priced players missed a few paychecks -- but the giant corporations backing Chinese League teams are paying staggering sums. Last January, Chelsea sold Ramires in a deal worth 20 million ($26 million) to Jiangsu Suning, which at the time was managed by former Chelsea player and Romanian international Dan Petrescu. Is compatriot Oscar worth three times as much?

“The Chinese market is a danger for all,” said Conte. “Not only for Chelsea, but all the teams in the world. But I think we must concentrate on our work, not think that in China there is a lot of money and they can arrive to take the players there.

“Oscar is a really good player. I was very proud to have him in my squad and to have him as my player. I’m proud of his attitude, his commitment and his behavior, which have been fantastic, and I have great respect for every decision made by a single player. But if you ask me: ‘Are you sorry?’ then yes, I am sorry to see him leave because a really good player, and a really good man, is leaving the club. I must be honest about this. But also I understand his decision.”

At a training session Friday, Oscar told teammates he will leave and he won’t be play again in the first team. Conte has discussed the offer with the club’s board, as well as how the money might be spent in reshaping the roster. Chelsea pursued Radja Nainggolan of Roma over the summer, and may chase Southampton’s Virgil van Dijk or PSG’s Marco Verratti.

“I talked to the board and explained my thoughts,” added Conte. “When there are incredible situations, it’s very difficult to manage this. Very difficult. And every player must decide his own future. But my style is to take always the decision together with the club, and to understand also some strange situations, some massive offers.

“Sometimes it’s important also to be ‘linked’ with the club to take the best decision, to understand sometimes if the situation can penalize you. But you have to take the best decision for the club. There are situations that are amazing, and it’s very difficult to try and solve the situation in the best way."

6 comments about "Conte: 'The Chinese market is a danger for all'".
  1. Quarterback TD, December 16, 2016 at 10:50 p.m.

    You cannot blame these players for running down the red dollars but this will still not buy the communist any respectable league. Their other communist regime brother Russia did the same a few years back until they cut ties with those expensive players like Samuel Eto. But let's be real is this really adding to the game or is this just an expensive showcase of "Look what I can do with my money" ?

  2. Scott Johnson replied, December 17, 2016 at 4:38 p.m.

    Russia is no longer Communist--indeed, it seems the Republican Party now loves Russia very much. That said, it's interesting to compare the Chinese SuperLeague to MLS--one is throwing around money like drunken sailors (whether they are profitable is another question), the other is tightly managing its expenses in a way that critics contend limit its growth as a league. OTOH, the Super League has the biggest media market all to itself (and soccer is the most popular team sport in the People's Republic), whereas MLS has to compete with the NFL/NHL/NBA/MLB for fans and their dollars.

  3. Carlos Rocha, December 17, 2016 at 4:18 p.m.

    Exploitation.

  4. :: SilverRey :: replied, December 19, 2016 at 10:50 a.m.

    ...of China? If the money's being offered, is that exploitation?

  5. :: SilverRey ::, December 19, 2016 at 10:51 a.m.

    Between China and the most recent EPL TV deal it's amazing any team can afford players now. One could probably argue that the TV deal was more influential on driving all the prices up for players.

  6. Joe Wilson, December 19, 2016 at 6:42 p.m.

    They'll live without Oscar's 15 minutes off the bench, or occasional start where he is pulled in the 70th minute. With Chelsea not playing in Europe, and a big enough EPL lead to pay little attention to the FA Cup if needed, they'll be fine. Then they can use the cash this summer for a player that will actually play more consistently.

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