The coronavirus has hit the sports world hard and one of the Chinese Super League’s biggest clubs folded in May after falling into financial crisis. Tianjin Tianhai, a club that previously employed striker Alexandre Pato and coach Fabio Cannavaro, quit the CSL.
Founded in 2006, the club struggled to pay their bills after the arrest and imprisonment of former owner Shu Yuhui. In 2019, Tianjin Tianhai finished second bottom. Shenzhen FC will replace Tianjin Tianhai when the new SCL season kicks off sometime this year.
At one time, European football clubs and media feared that the CSL would attract the best players to China to play football. Despite the money available to spend, few big names left European football to play in the CSL or China’s lower leagues. While the rumours of financial wealth being high were rampant and China was claimed to be hungry to improve domestic football fortunes, money has been difficult to come by for some clubs of late.
Twelve clubs in China’s top three levels of football went out of business over the course of the last six months. Tianjin Tianhai were the first club from the CSL to go out of business, however.
Tianjin Tianhai’s former players include Pato, current Borussia Dortmund midfielder Axel Witsel, and Koln striker Anthony Modeste. All three cost the club significant amounts of money that they were unable to make back. The problem with the money spent over the last 10 years in the CSL, especially when large sums were first being spent, is the clubs are unlikely to make revenue and profits to justify the spending.
Tianjin Tianhai were considered one of the CSL’s most active spenders when the league started to lure players from Europe. Now, players may be more cautious than ever before about heading to China to play for one of the country’s clubs.