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Modeste to China: the beginning of the end?

June 20, 2017

Anthony Modeste is the latest player to be heavily linked with a move to the Chinese Super League. He's reportedly been offered 10 million euros a year, but is China's ambitious football project running out of steam?


Neither a world star nor a household name beyond German shores, but Anthony Modeste is the latest player to be wooed with an eye-watering contract offer from the Chinese Super League.

The offer on the table is a reported annual salary of 10 million euros ($11 million) with a transfer fee of 35 million euros potentially heading Cologne's way. At 29, Modeste is highly unlikely to be offered better terms and, with Tianjin Quanjian intent on adding the Frenchman to their ranks, this is one of those occasions when everyone is a winner.

It's up for debate whether Modeste really is a winner beyond the obvious financial benefits, given the infancy of the China project and reports that some players have been forced to leave the country. Former Bayer Leverkusen forward Robbie Kruse left Lianing Whowin due to the non-payment of wages.

Even if Modeste makes the move, which is looking increasingly likely, there is a chance he could be one of the last big-money signings clubs in China are permitted to make following a proposal to introduce a transfer tax on all deals.

Officials from the Chinese Football Association (CFA) wrote to all 32 clubs in China's top two divisions last week detailing the latest attempt to curb the league's record-breaking, which saw 375 million euros of spending in the last transfer window, eclipsing the spending by English Premier League clubs in January.

Any club in debt that spends more than 5.9 million euros on a foreign player - or 2.6 million euros on a domestic player- would have to pay the same amount to a government-run football development foundation under the control of the CFA.  A club spending less would still have to pay the fee, but this would be returned to their youth academy. And the CFA have thought about loan signings too, with proposals to introduce a 'registration fee' for loan signings.

Deutschland Bundesliga Bayer 04 Leverkusen vs. Eintracht Frankfurt Roger Schmidt
Schmidt had been linked with the vacant post at Premier League clubs Southampton and WatfordImage: Getty Images/Bongarts/L. Baron

In effect, the new rules would double the fee for any player and make signings like the proposed deal for Modeste much harder to pull off.

Going, going, Guoan

There's nothing stopping coaches from making the jump to China though. Former Bayer Leverkusen coach Roger Schmidt had been linked with the vacant posts at Premier League clubs Southampton and Watford before eventually taking the money Beijing Guoan offered him. Tianjin Quanjian - Modeste's possible new club - already has former Ballon d'Or winner Fabio Cannavaro as their head coach.

While the coaches might be able to also benefit from financial gains, they too have a few headaches. Chinese clubs are limited to three non-Chinese players in their squad, something that has slowed but not stopped spending that has been described as "irrational" by CFA officials.

Modeste's possible arrival at Tianjin Quanjian would mean Brazilian Alexandre Pato, Belgian Axel Witsel or South Korean Kwon Kyung-won would have to make way - most likely the latter – to ensure that the club avoided breaching the new rules.

All this points towards a slowing of transfer activity in China in the coming transfer windows, which makes the opportunity for Modeste even more worth seizing. He may be giving up the chance to represent Cologne in the Europa League next season but having been frozen out of the French national team by Didier Deschamps, Modeste may feel the time is right.

The question is, can the league continue to attract the world's biggest names under these new constraints?

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