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'China can learn from failed NASL'

Brighton chief executive Paul Barber has compared Chinese football's trolley-dash approach to signing foreign talent with the boom and bust of American football in the 1970s.

China's winter transfer window does not close until Tuesday and several Chinese Super League clubs have been linked with a move for Manchester United's Wayne Rooney that could make him the world's best-paid player.

Barber, a former Football Association and Tottenham director, spent two years in charge of Major League Soccer's Vancouver Whitecaps before joining the ambitious Sussex club in 2012.

Speaking at a Sport Industry event in London on Monday, Barber said: "The first two or three seasons it's a bit like lightning in a bottle. It's bright, it's exciting and it's very contained.

"It's great to have a top division with ageing superstars - and in China's case not so ageing - but how long and how sustainable is that?"

Global stars such as Franz Beckenbauer, George Best, Johan Cruyff, Bobby Moore and Pele were attracted to the North American Soccer League by big salaries and the lure of fame in the world's biggest market.

"It was very much like the Chinese scene now," said Barber, whose current club are second in the Championship.

"They had some of the best players in the world playing for a couple of years, attracting huge audiences, huge money, and then, within three years, it was dead because there was nothing behind it to sustain it.

"At the moment (China) looks very much like that to me. But who knows? China is China."

CROSS-BORDER DEALS

Last month, a Fifa Transfer Matching System report on cross-border deals revealed that China was second only to England, home to the world's richest league, in spending last year.

The buying spree, initially backed by Chinese President Xi Jinping, brought Brazilian stars Hulk, Oscar and Alex Teixeira to the emerging league, and saw Argentine striker Carlos Tevez paid £32 million (S$56.6m) a year in wages.

But after Oscar's £52million transfer from Chelsea to Shanghai SIPG in December, the Chinese authorities started to rein in the spending slightly by limiting the number of foreign players a team can use, to three per match.

Another new rule for the 2017 season, which starts next month, is that two under-23 Chinese players must be included in match-day squads, with one in the starting XI. - PA SPORT

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