Lionel Messi to Chinese Super League?

FC Barcelona superstar Lionel Andrés Messi has been linked with a blockbuster move to Chinese Super League side Hebei China Fortune FC.

The Argentinean wizard has a £618 million release clause in his lucrative contract with FC Barcelona although Hebei China Fortune are undeterred. Argentina defender Javier Mascherano most recently joined Hebei Fortune FC from FC Barcelona, whereas Hebei Fortune FC are coached by former Manchester City Head Coach Manuel Pellegrini and currently have Argentine forward Ezequeil Lavezzi leading the front line for the Chinese Super League titan; Hebei Fortune FC long to challenge the Chinese Super League powerhouse Guangzhou Evergrande as the elite team in China.

During the well-documented 2016 transfer market window, Chinese professional soccer teams officially outspent the world’s most fiscally liberal, popular and entertaining league on the planet in 2016 – the English Premier League.

The Chinese premier division’s collective spending was on the cusp of £1 billion accumatively in 2016 and the newfound trend of the Chinese monopoly in professional soccer continues to ascend to unprecedented heights to attract the greatest talent in the world, particularly with the speculation of arguably the greatest player in the world (Lionel Andrés Messi) potentially joining Hebei China Fortune FC in the Chinese Super League.

Over the course of merely ten days in January 2016, China’s soccer transfer record was broken three times, culminating in Jiangsu Suning making a £38 million transaction for Brazilian attacking midfielder Alex Teixeira from Ukraine giants Shakhtar Donetsk.

Arsenal head coach Arsené Wenger has since publicly insinuated that Europe’s elite should be largely concerned with Chinese soccer’s newfound financial monopolization and influence, particularly now that China has the confident ability to alter the fabric of European teams in a singular heartbeat.

Chinese President Xi Jinping is a devoted soccer fan and longs for China to become a soccer superpower. In 2011, Jinping expressed three very clear wishes for China: to compete in the FIFA World Cup once again, to host the FIFA World Cup and for China to one day win the FIFA World Cup.

The shady Chinese government’s high-profile program to instantly boost the profile of beautiful game in China has generated uber-optimism in China regarding the future of the sport with the development of a grassroots youth soccer system nationwide and the merchandising and branding of international soccer leagues of mainstream television in China; the Chinese Super League (CSL) has now attracted reputable global business tycoons and major corporations. Conversely, Chinese consortium business groups and business owners have undertaken buyouts of teams internationally as well as domestically.

Guangzhou Evergrande – formerly coached by ex-Brazil head coach Luiz Felipe Scolari – is presently owned by a real estate titan, with internet giant Alibaba holding a 40% share in the team; former Lazio and England head coach Sven-Goran Eriksson served as the head coach of Shenzhen FC and former Chelsea Head Coach Andre Villas-Boas is currently the Head Coach of Shanghai SIPG.

Furthermore, Chinese teams raided the talent-laden – yet fiscally conservative – Brazilian Premier Division in January 2016, which witnessed four Corinthians players – Corinthians were then reigning Brazilian Premier Division Champions – unceremoniously sold to Chinese teams.

Many experts believe that the outlandish spending spree and financial monopoly will not subside anytime soon for Chinese Super League sides, which is summarized by Chinese teams spending equal sums of extravagant money on marquee players when compared to Europe’s elite (Paris St-Germain, Chelsea, FC Barcelona, Manchester City, Real Madrid, Borussia Dortmund, Bayern Munchen, Juventus, Arsenal and Manchester United).

Argentinean forward Ezequiel Lavezzi left Ligue 1 reigning champions Paris St-Germain – who routinely compete in the UEFA Champions League – for Hebei China Fortune in a deal reportedly worth £23.5 million on February 17, 2016 coupled alongside a weekly salary of £400,000 per week, thus making the Argentine star the then highest paid player in the Chinese Super League and one of the highest paid soccer players in the world (Lavezzi’s contract with Les Rouges-et-Bleu was set to expire before joining Hebei China Fortune).

Thereafter, Brazil playmaking star Oscar join Chinese soccer powerhouse Shanghai SIPG, whereas Argentina and Boca Juniors superstar forward Carlos Tévez joined Shanghai Shensua before returning to Boca Juniors; Carlos Tévez earned £40 million per season in the Chinese Super League and the amount is 20 times as much to what Tévez would have then earned at Argentinean powerhouse Boca Juniors – the most successful team in South America.

In December 2015, China President Xi Jinpang visited Manchester City’s training headquarters with United Kingdom Prime Minister David Cameron a few weeks after a major consortium paid £275 million for a 13% share in the UAE-owned company that owns the Pep Guardiola-coached team.

Moreover, China’s highest property group Dalian Wanda spent £35 million on a 20% stake in La Liga Primera titan Atlético Madrid. Is China’s newfound financial monopoly a threat to European soccer’s elite and will Messi become motivated by the allure of the Chinese Super League riches?

Dean Perretta

Dean Perretta is a 2x SEA Award-winning creative, Broadcast Journalist, Reporter, Courtside Analyst for BBC televised London Lions and Executive Producer who currently contributes to FOX Sports Radio, FourFourTwo Magazine and Muscle & Fitness Magazine.