Football in China: Facts and Figures

What is the Chinese Super League?

The Chinese Football Association Super League was set up in 2004 as part of an effort to modernise and streamline the game in China, which was suffering from corruption. There are 16 teams in the current league, up from 12 when it started. The season runs from February or March until November or December.

Transfer Spending

In the January transfer window this year, Chinese sides spent nearly €250 million, more than the €220 million spent by Premier League clubs, although the January window is the main transfer period for China because of the February/March start.


Number of Foreign Players

Super League clubs are restricted to four foreign players per team, and only four can be on the field at one time, including one from an Asian Football Confederation (AFC) country.


Oscar, 25, (Brazil) Chelsea to Shanghai SIPG.€24 million salary

Hulk, 30, (Brazil) Zenit St Petersburg to Shanghai SIPG. €20 million salary

Ezequiel Lavezzi, 30, (Argentina) PSG to Hebei China Fortune. €16 million salary

Graziano Pelle, 31, (Italy) Southampton to Shandong Luneng. €16 million salary.

Ramires, 28, (Brazil) Chelsea to Jiangsu Suning. €14 million salary

Jackson Martinez, 29, (Colombia) Atletico Madrid to Guangzhou Evergrande Taobao. €13.4 million salary

Alex Teixeira, 26, (Brazil) Shakhtar Donetsk to Jiangsu Suning. €11 million salary

Gervinho (Ivory Coast), 29, Roma to Hebei China Fortune. €9.27 million salary

Fredy Guarin, 29, (Colombia) Inter Milan to Shanghai Shenhua. €7.65 million salary

Demba Ba, 30, (Senegal) Besiktas to Shanghai Shenhua. €6.4 million salary

Paulinho, 27, (Brazil) Tottenham to Guangzhou Evergrande. €6 million salary


Can vary widely from city to city. Beijing Guo’an in the capital city regular get big crowds and had the largest turnout last season in April when 53,800 watched them lose 0-3 to Guangzhou Evergrande. The lowest attendance last season was 5,135 for Hangzhou Greentown against Guangzhou R&F.

Biggest Club

The most successful club in recent years is Guangzhou Evergrande Taobao, who have won the Chinese Super League for the past five seasons. The club is part-owned by Jack Ma, China's second-richest man whose Alibaba company owns the Taobao ecommerce platform in the club's title. The club is managed by former Brazil manager Luiz Felipe Scolari and has been valued by Forbes at €270 million.

Big names in management?

Manuel Pellegrini moved to Hebei China Fortune after he left Manchester City, while Shandong Luneng are managed by Felix Magath, who won back-to-back Bundesliga titles at Bayern Munich in 2005 and 2006, and was the first German to manage in the Premier League at Fulham.

Former England manager Sven-Goran Eriksson managed Shanghai SIPG until he was replaced by Andre Villas-Boas in November. He has now replaced Clarence Seedorf as manager of Shenzhen FC.

Former Atletico Madrid, Mallorca and Sevilla manager Gregorio Manzano manages Shanghai Shenhua after a year managing Beijing Guo'an.

Former Yugoslavia and Red Star Belgrade captain Dragan Stojkovic is manager of Guangzhou R&F.

There are also some big Korean names managing, including Incheon coach Chang Woe-ryong at Chongqing Lifan, where Arsenal legend Tony Adams is sport director.

Where is the money coming from?

The big money clubs are Guangzhou Evergrande Taobao, Shanghai SIPG, Jiangsu Suning, and Shanghai Shenhua, who account for nine of the most expensive signings in Chinese club football.

Who is next after Oscar?

Gus Poyet, who manages Shanghai Shenhua, is on the verge of signing striker Carlos Tevez from Boca Juniors on a salary of €38 million a year, while Paris St-Germain and Uruguay striker Edinson Cavani has been linked to Tianjin Quanjian on a€20 million a year salary.

TV Rights

In November, the Premier League agreed a major new deal for its TV rights in China, which could be worth up to €670 milllion. The three-year contract with the video streaming service PPTV is set to be the league’s biggest-ever overseas broadcast sale. PPTV is owned by the retail group Suning, which bought a controlling stake in Serie A team Inter Milan in June.

Clifford Coonan

Clifford Coonan

Clifford Coonan, an Irish Times contributor, spent 15 years reporting from Beijing