With just days left before the winter transfer window slams shut, the saga surrounding Diego Costa’s future at Chelsea seems settled… for now.
Since the window opened on January 1st the Chinese Super League has continued to enhance the reputation of the league’s deep pockets, having spent £152,625,000 as of Saturday afternoon with rumors of additional offers of €300m+ for Cristiano Ronaldo and £80m for the aforementioned Diego Costa filling up the tabloids.
Tottenham’s Paulinho and his nearly £12m move in the summer of 2015 was the start of notable players electing to make the move to the Far East and sacrifice competitiveness for stacks of cash.
Since that transfer, over the past four windows, the Chinese Super League has spent a staggering £310m on recognizable internationals. The scary part isn’t their acquisition of this talent, but the manner in which they go about doing it via mass overpayments both in transfer fees and weekly wages.
Transfermarket.co.uk lists valuations for each player and according to their figures the 15 transfers that made up that £310m included overpayments of over £96m.
In addition, the league is responsible for 5 of the world’s top 15 highest paid players, including Carlos Tevez and his whopping £615,000/week or £32m/year salary, which exceeds the compensation of both, Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi by over £10m.
So, when rumblings that China had come calling to check in on the volatile Diego Costa with a bid of £80m for the £38.25m rated striker and the fact Chelsea has done significant deals with the league in the past, it became a very real possibility that the Premier League’s leading scorer would be off to one of the world’s least competitive leagues.
Already this window Chelsea has shipped Oscar, a young and promising midfielder, to China for £51m and last year the team saw Ramires go as well for £23.8m.
This league, much like the MLS, was reserved for players headed into their twilight years but is now shifting to include those entering their primes, which is a terrifying proposition for the rest of the world.
Even with that said, despite younger players deciding to make the switch there still hasn’t been anyone even close to Costa’s caliber, a legitimate superstar with options to join a slew of the world’s best teams.
Rumors of Costa returning to Atletico Madrid, the team which saw Costa left for West London in a £32m switch in 2014, have been coming in waves since Chelsea’s disastrous 2015/16 campaign.
However, the likely destination for the often aloof, but extremely effective, talisman has shifted to the Chinese Super League and that speculation has only intensified in recent weeks.
Following a training ground dust-up that received an exclamation point in the form of a benching (or injury depending on who you believe, p.s. it was a benching) by manager Antion Conte and reports he told the unsettled player to “go to China” it became more real than ever.
So, take a striker known for his outbursts and emotion and pair him with a manager known for his outbursts and emotion, then throw in the Russian steel tycoon owner of a club synonymous with doing good business (and a £48m profit is very good business) and all of a sudden there was a real possibility of seeing China’s greatest catch yet.
And while these three are at the forefront, Diego Costa’s super-agent Jorge Mendes, lingers in the shadows.
In the soccer world, transfers are where agents make their money. Over the summer, Paul Pogba’s £89m move to Manchester United from Juventus saw his agent, Mino Raiola, pocket a cool £21m. So, bottom line is there is a ton of money at stake for all parties involved and somehow more obvious agendas than others.
While it seems unlikely Costa will leave Stamford Bridge this window, a summer exit feels like a near certainty with a return to Atletico Madrid or a move to China as his most likely destinations.
A move back to Spain would be a loss for Chelsea, but wouldn’t the disrupt balance of the sport as players move from one major club to another with regularity.
But, a move to China in good form, at only 28 and potentially following (hopefully) a title-winning campaign sets a dangerous precedent for the future of European soccer.
Once it becomes apparent that China’s wealth makes up for the sins of a horrendous league and that it has the ability to draw the game’s elite, the sport many of us love will be irrefutably watered down.
China won’t become the new hub for soccer, with only 16 teams and only 3 foreign players allowed to feature per team per match it will quickly turn become something like if Kevin Durant and LeBron James played in your local YMCA league, the NBA would become slightly worse and less enjoyable and your YMCA league would unbalanced and laughable.
So, for all of our sakes let us hope that there is much more of this over the next few months, so we can all stop worrying about the dismantling of the world’s most popular game: