Top players from around the globe are flocking to the cash-rich Chinese Super League in an unprecedented migration of talent.
According to Transfermarkt, the CSL outspent every league in the world during the January-February transfer window, pumping $363 million into the league.
Here are some big names who signed with the CSL:
1. Alex Texiera
The 26-year-old Brazilian midfielder signed with Jiangsu Suning after they ponied up a cool $54 million to acquire his rights from Ukrainian powerhouse Shakthar Donesk. Texiera follows in the footsteps of other marquee players who have taken taken their talents to China.
2. Jackson Martinez
Guangzhou Evergrande paid $46 million for the Colombian striker, who cut his teeth in the Portuguese Primeria Liga with FC Porto before siging with Atlético Madrid in 2015.
Former Chelsea man Ramires joined his Brazilian countryman Alex Texiera at Jiangsu Suning after they shelled out $36 million in transfer fees.
The 28-year-old Ivorian winger signed with Hebei Fortune from Roma for a $20 million fee.
5. Fredy Guarín
Shanghai Greenland Shenhua snatched up the Colombian midfielder from Inter Milan for $14 million.
6. Obafemi Martins
The Nigerian dynamo signed a contract with Shanghai Shenhua that will double his salary to somewhere north of $6 million annually, in addition to the $2 million transfer fee the Seattle Sounders received.
So why all the new money? Hint: it has surprisingly little to do with soccer.
Capital constraints make it hard for wealthy Chinese to get their money out of the country – so rich people buy land. Profits from China’s explosive growth in recent decades have largely been reinvested in real estate.
However, due to global economic forces, the Chinese real estate gold rush is quickly coming to an end.
As China’s real estate market corrects itself, wealthy investors are looking to hedge their land bets by finding new ways to invest domestically, including paying sky-high prices to import soccer players.
While these new, high profile signings will undoubtedly increase domestic interest in Chinese soccer, the real reason for this cash grab is because the CSL is an attractive place to park money if you’ve got it.
At the end of the day, money makes the world go ’round – and soccer players go ’round it.