Tianjin shackled in Costa chase


Spain’s Diego Costa in action against Italy during a 2018 World Cup qualifier on Oct 6, 2016.

Tianjin had Chelsea striker Costa, Paris Saint-Germain’s Edinson Cavani, Monaco’s Radamel Falcao and Benfica’s Raul Jimenez in its sights until authorities announced limits on foreign players and wages, club chairman Shu Yuhui said.

Quoted by Sina Sports, Shu said Tianjin might now have to jettison its current foreign star, 36-year-old Brazilian striker Luis Fabiano, who scored 22 goals in 26 games this season.

“There were talks about Costa. It is true we looked at him, Cavani as well,” Shu said, adding the club had bid for both players.

He said there had been “intense” talks, including with super-agent Jorge Mendes, who traveled to Tianjin.

“A few days ago, Mendes came to my hometown to meet me,” Shu said.

“Just yesterday (Monday), the club was prepared to sign two players, the contracts were ready, the price and wages had been discussed. It was Falcao and Raul-Jimenez.

“The two players were ready to sign, and then we received the signal, the restrictions on the salary and the number of (foreign) players. We had no choice, we had to change our plans.”

Shu said Paris Saint-Germain was ready to let Cavani leave in June, but China will be in the middle of its season by then.

“Because of the special situation of his club, Diego Costa is in a similar situation, he can’t leave before June. We can’t wait so long, until mid-season,” said Shu.

Another bid had been made for French striker Karim Benzema at Read Madrid.

“With the change of policy (on foreign players), we are left helpless,” he said. “We are now discussing whether or not to keep Fabiano.”

China’s growing financial soccer muscle has caused some alarm. Tottenham coach Mauricio Pochettino said on the weekend that Chinese clubs had “broken” the market with astronomical transfers.

On Monday, China’s soccer federation said it will cut the number of foreign players on top-flight teams to curb massive spending on overseas talent.

Chinese Super League teams will be able to field no more than three foreigners in a match when the new season begins in March, according to new Chinese Football Association rules.

Previously, four non-Chinese players were allowed, provided one was from an Asian Football Confederation country.

The CFA said such a move would aid development of the game in a country whose leader, President Xi Jinping, is determined to see China reach soccer superpower status.

The organization has vowed to rein in the “recent appearance of irrational investments and the payment of high transfer fees and salaries for domestic and foreign footballers”.

Last month saw Shanghai SIPG pay Chelsea $63 million for Brazilian midfielder Oscar, while Shanghai Shenhua lured Argentina’s former Manchester United star Carlos Tevez for an annual salary worth a reported $20 million.

China is currently ranked No 82 in the world, but has only qualified for one World Cup, in 2002, where it failed to win a match or score a goal.

Toure prefers to stay in England

Manchester City midfielder Yaya Toure has rejected offers from Chinese Super League clubs that would have paid the Cote d’Ivorian around $533,000 a week, reports said on Tuesday.

Toure’s contract with City expires at the end of the season and he has reportedly been approached by several Chinese Super League clubs.

The 33-year-old first attracted interest from China last year.

He snubbed those offers and gave the same response when he was contacted again after the winter transfer window opened this month because he would prefer to continue playing in England, the BBC and other British media said.

It’s unclear whether City, which signed Toure from Barcelona in 2010, will offer him a new deal.

Toure has regained his place in the heart of City’s midfield over the past two months after a squabble between the club and his agent threatened to end his time in Manchester.

Toure was frozen out by manager Pep Guardiola after his outspoken representative Dimitri Seluk claimed the midfielder had been humiliated by his omission from City’s Champions League squad.

That situation was resolved when Toure issued a November apology “to the management team and all those working at the club for the misunderstandings from the past.”

China Daily

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