While Chinese Super League clubs try to spend their way to success, bringing in world-class players on astronomical salaries, there is a real danger that teams will neglect the task of developing home-grown talent, former World Cup coach Philippe Troussier told Reuters.
Troussier, who coached South Africa at the 1998 World Cup and Japan at the finals four years later, has been appointed sporting director at CSL side Chongqing Dangdai Lifan and will oversee moves to increase the number of youngster playing the game across the world’s most populous nation.
The Frenchman, however, is convinced cash-rich CSL clubs cannot be left with the responsibility of developing the talent China hopes will turn the country into a global football power.
“We talk too much about money and profit in China when we talk about young players,” Troussier told Reuters by telephone.
“People believe they can get money and make profit, and for that reason I’m a little bit worried what the process can bring to the young players.
“We need to give a signal to the clubs that they have to think about youth development, but they don’t care about that.
“We need a second process and we need to do it through the schools, through the Chinese Football Association, through academies to build a strong league for under 17s, to build a strong league for under 18s, to get money to teach coaches and to build a strong infrastructure.
“This is what we have to think about for the future.”
The problem, Troussier thinks, is that the clubs are just not that interested.
“They are only interested in the first team and they want to win, and I think the CSL cannot help the CFA,” he added.
“They don’t have the same strategy. We have to develop a CFA programme and a provincial strategy and that’s the direction we have to think of seriously.”
Chinese clubs have spent huge sums in recent years to attract some of the best players and coaches in the world following a proclamation by President Xi Jinping he wanted to see the nation qualify for, host and win the World Cup.
In the last 18 months, Shanghai SIPG have spent in excess of $100 million in transfer fees to lure Brazilian trio Oscar, Hulk and Elkeson to the club, while also paying huge salaries to former England manager Sven Goran Eriksson and current coach Andre Villas-Boas.
Villas-Boas has courted controversy since the start of the season by appearing to circumnavigate new rules regarding the compulsory fielding of at least one player under the age of 23 in the CSL this season.
The Portuguese coach has regularly withdrawn the youngest member of his starting line-up within minutes of kick-off.
The issue has become a major talking point in Chinese football, and Troussier believes it highlights how the priorities of the CSL clubs run contrary to what is required to lay the foundations for future success for the national team.
“If I’m the coach of a club in the CSL, I want to have the best team and I don’t care if I have five players under 23 or 10 over 30,” said Troussier, who previous coached Chinese clubs Hangzhou Greentown and Shenzhen Ruby.
“The level of the league now is a little bit down because 80 percent of the results are coming from the foreigners and the under 23 players are not ready. Even though it might be a good idea, I think it’s too early.
“For that reason I’m a little bit worried, because if the level goes down then other activities will go down and maybe the number of fans will go down. Maybe the media will go down and if during this time the clubs don’t want to work on the grassroots then I would be a little bit worried.”
Despite his concerns, Troussier is confident China has the ability to eventually become a major player in the global game.
“From six-years-old to 12-years-old if we compare England, Spain, Italy and China, believe me there is no difference,” he says.
“The human potential is not different. The Chinese have the same potential, maybe better because they want to improve.
“But the problem after 12 is that we don’t have anything.
“We don’t have infrastructure because parents don’t want to support because there’s too much pressure for examinations. We have to find a way because the potential is there, it is sleeping somewhere.
“We have money, we have ambition, we have desire and now we have to find the right way.” (Editing by Peter Rutherford)