Football

Wenger warns of China's lure

Arsenal boss warns EPL may lose its top stars to the Chinese Super League, as Oscar seals Shanghai deal

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has warned the Premier League not to underestimate the enormous spending power of Chinese football, after the Asian country secured another high-profile signing yesterday.

Wenger joins Chelsea counterpart Antonio Conte in expressing concern that a growing number of players could be lured to the Far East by the riches on offer in the Chinese Super League.

The Frenchman raised the issue on the same day Chelsea midfielder Oscar was set to become the world's highest-paid player, earning a reported £400,000 (S$714,000) per week, after he agreed to join Shanghai SIPG in the 16-team competition.

"It's (Oscar's move) a surprise to me but, when I was in Japan, they had many Brazilian players like Leonardo, Jorginho and Dunga. The competition was well-organised," former Nagoya Grampus coach Wenger said yesterday.

"At the moment, I think Oscar moves because he doesn't play... China gives him that opportunity and they invest a lot of money to create a big force," Wenger added.

"It could become a problem in future for the Premier League."

Last week, Chelsea boss Conte, when asked to comment on Oscar's impending transfer, called China's financial muscle "a danger for all teams in the world".

Chinese clubs are now competing with European rivals for world-class players, who are opting for China's astronomical pay packets over the chance of a career in football's top leagues.

The Asian transfer record was broken three times in just 10 days in the January-February transfer window, and it was moved higher when Brazil striker Hulk joined SIPG for
55.8 million euros (S$84.3m) in July.

They invest a lot of money... It could become a problem in future for the Premier League.Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger on the wealthy Chinese Super League clubs

RECORD SUMS

Oscar's ex-Chelsea teammate Ramires 29, and Alex Teixeira, 26, are other highly-rated Brazilians in their 20s to join the Super League for record sums this year.

Graziano Pelle, Ezequiel Lavezzi and Jackson Martinez are all recent arrivals in China, while Shanghai SIPG coach Andre Villas-Boas is also on a lucrative contract since replacing former England boss Sven Goran-Eriksson.

In addition, Argentina striker Carlos Tevez is on the brink of a big-money move to Shanghai Shenhua, while influential Arsenal winger Alexis Sanchez has been linked with a transfer to Hebei China Fortune by the British media.

Meanwhile, Oscar said that he was looking forward to joining his "new family" after sealing his move to Shanghai SIPG.

OSCAR'S £60M MOVE

The 25-year-old Brazil midfielder, snared for a reported £60 million, is China's fifth Asian-record signing in less than a year.

"I'm very happy to sign to SIPG. This is an important day for me to join to my new family in China," Oscar said in a video statement released by SIPG yesterday.

Besides being Asia's record signing, Oscar will also become Chelsea's biggest sale, beating compatriot David Luiz's £50m move to Paris St Germain in 2014.

A Chelsea statement said Oscar will join SIPG at the start of the January transfer window, noting he has won the Premier League, League Cup and Europa League titles during his four and a half years at the London club. - WIRE SERVICES

eplarsenalChina