The soccer news starts with the Chinese Super League. Not so long ago, they were the major threat to the status quo in world soccer, offering players salaries that even the biggest European clubs weren't interested in matching. That changed quickly, with Chinese authorities moving against the kind of spending that brought players like Oscar and Hulk to China's Super League. Both of those deals are on the top 50 all-time most expensive transfers. It wasn't just the transfer fees. The salaries available in China were bigger than what players were making anywhere else.
Fast forward just a couple of seasons and Chinese clubs are now operating on a budget. AFP reports on the latest tweak, a salary cap for Chinese players alongside increased scrutiny of financial reporting. The situation in Chinese soccer changed quickly, but so did the market in Europe.
The escalation in transfer valuations is easy to overlook in this era of increased revenue across the board in European soccer. PSG choosing to unlock Neymar's contract started an elite level trend that continued over the summer with three transfers valued at over $100m dollars. The reports of USMNT and Borussia Dortmund midfielder Christian Pulisic's value on the transfer market is in the neighborhood of $70m, enough to put that potential deal in the top 20. Given the escalation in transfer fees, that may not be the case once a few more teams make a few more moves.
What the market will bear is the casual response to escalating prices, but selling player contracts isn't a standard business model. It's one soccer's governing bodies can control. That might mean limiting spending with caps, introducing a player trade standard rather than directly selling contracts, or otherwise reign in the spending for the sake of economic sense and competitive balance.
FIFA is putting some of that in play. World soccer's governing body is talking reform, which is an interesting line to take considering they're also talking about a $25b deal to sell the revamped Club World Cup and a global Nations League. Reuter's Brian Homewood reported in September that FIFA's plan includes the potential for a luxury tax, something currently in use in Major League Baseball. Whatever FIFA does or doesn't end up doing, just opening up the discussion is important.
The Chinese Super League represented a brief moment where Europe's hegemony in spending power was under threat. Without it, world club soccer becomes a different game.
Goal's Ives Galarcep works through the January camp roster. MLSsoccer's Matt Doyle also reviews the roster. The Athletic's Adam Snavely goes through the differences between MLS stadium renderings and what is actually built.
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