SEOUL: South Korea captain Ki Sung-Yueng warned that China’s massive spending on foreign players didn’t guarantee international success, citing the cautionary tale of England’s moribund national team.
Italy’s Graziano Pelle reportedly became one of the world’s highest paid players when he joined Shandong Luneng from Southampton, in one of the latest coups for the cash-rich Chinese Super League.
Swansea City’s Ki, speaking after South Korea’s 3-2 World Cup qualifying win over China late on Thursday, said China’s spending spree had helped raise standards in Asian football.
However, he said a star-studded domestic league didn’t mean China would achieve its elusive goal, craved by fans and President Xi Jinping alike, of success on the international stage.
“It’s good for Asian football that there is so much investment in Chinese football it helps Asian football develop and it is good for the Chinese Super League,” said Ki.
But he added: “Signing good foreign players is no guarantee that the country will develop.
“There are many good players from all over the world in the English Premier League but the results of the England national team are not good.”
English Premier League clubs splashed out a record 1.17 billion pounds (US$1.55 billion) in the July-August transfer window, putting other top leagues in the shade.
But England, who haven’t reached a major final in 50 years, flopped embarrassingly at the June-July European Championships, crashing out in the round of 16 after a shock defeat to tiny Iceland.
China have only ever made one World Cup, in 2002, and their hopes of playing the next edition in Russian in 2018 took a knock with Thursday’s defeat in Seoul.
However, there were positive signs for China as they fought back from 3-0 down — including an early own goal — and had South Korea hanging on for their win.
“We made a comfortable game very difficult,” said South Korea coach Uli Stielike. “When they scored the second goal, we lost our heads a little.”
China boss Gao Hongbo said his players could take heart ahead of Tuesday’s home game against Iran, another of Asia’s heavyweights.
“We can take confidence from our performance,” said Gao. “They have more experience than us. We showed determination to come back at the end and going forward, this will help us a lot.”
He added: “We have played one strong team and Iran are another. We are looking forward to the game and showing fans at home what we can do.”