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Chinese Super League announces decrease in foreign spending

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The Chinese Super League has shocked the soccer world by spending huge sums to attract star foreign players but new rules introduced for the start of the 2017 season will have a significant impact on the game in China, Asia and perhaps around the world.

On a statement on its official website on Monday, the China Football Association (CFA) outlined its plans to change the rules for the new season, which is less than two months away.

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“In order to realize `The General Plan of Chinese Football Reform and Development’ and to benefit the overall development of Chinese football and Chinese local players, to enhance the quality of the national team and to keep the professional league on a healthy, stable and consistent track, the CFA has adjusted the regulations of the 2017 Chinese Super League,” the statement said.

Under the existing rules, all 16 teams in the Chinese Super League are allowed to sign a maximum of 5 foreign players. All five can be named in the 18-man match-day roster but only 4 can take the field at any one time, and 1 of those players has to be from an Asian nation.

Under the new regulations, teams can still sign 5 foreign players, now from anywhere in the world as the `Asian quota’ is abolished, but only 3 can be included in match-day rosters.

Player agent Kim Dong-jun, who is based in Seoul and represents some Chinese players, said the new rules will turn the spotlight back on the locals.

“The teams that have the best Chinese players will be successful and the value of Chinese players is going to rise,” Kim told Associated Press.

The value of Chinese players is already rising. On Friday, newly-promoted Chinese Super League team Tianjin Quanjian broke the domestic transfer record by paying around $10.6 million for goalkeeper Zhang Lu to Liaoning.

The elimination of the rule where teams have to have a foreigner from another Asian country will likely have the biggest impact in South Korea, according to Kim.

“K-League teams have lots of experience in selling players to China for lots of money,” said Kim. “They have been doing this for three or four years, including smaller K-League teams that have smaller budgets. These changes will reduce the number of Koreans who go to China and could have a big financial impact on Korean clubs.”

There are also some Australians likely to be effected. Adelaide United had agreed to sell James Holland to Liaoning. The move has been placed on hold and there is also uncertainty over the transfer of Robbie Kruse to the same club.

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Also in 2017, each team will have to include one Under-23 player in the starting 11 and another in the match-day squad. On social media, Shanghai SIPG assistant coach Mads Davidsen expressed his surprise at the timing of the announcement but said that local players would benefit from the rule. “The U23-rule is very positive, plus one on the bench giving them all a chance. 5 (overseas players) are allowed in the squad, so no one has to leave.”

The planned introduction of new rules has not had an immediate impact yet, with several teams spending up big in the transfer window, which opened on Jan. 1. Shanghai SIPG signed Brazilian midfielder Oscar from English Premier League leaders Chelsea for a reported figure of around $60 million to link up with fellow international Hulk. Shanghai Shenhua has recruited Carlos Tevez and has reportedly made the Argentine the highest-paid soccer player in the world.

Not everyone is happy with the huge amounts of money on offer though and earlier this month, the country’s General Administration of Sport issued a warning to clubs that were spending large sums on foreign talent.

A spokesman said that the government, which under president Xi Jinping has been encouraging the growth of the sport in a bid to become a global soccer powerhouse by 2050, would “regulate and restrain high-priced signings and make reasonable restrictions on players’ high incomes.”

European teams are also wary with Chelsea manager Antonio Conte expressing his concern.

“The Chinese market is a danger for all,” he said last month. “Not only for Chelsea, but all the teams in the world.

“But I think we must concentrate on our work, not think that in China there is a lot of money and they can arrive to take the players there.”

Liverpool fans warned, as Roma pledges support

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There was a terrible incident in Liverpool on Tuesday when a Reds supporter was set upon by Roma fans and left in critical condition.

Sean Cox, 53, was attacked outside a pub before Liverpool’s 5-2 UEFA Champions League semifinal first leg win over AS Roma.

[ MORE: LFC 5-2 Roma | Klopp reacts ]

Liverpool has released its plans to keep supporters safe should they be among the 5,000 with tickets in Rome on Wednesday (via LiverpoolFC.com), pledging the “most comprehensive safety and security advice.”

The club has taken the exceptional measure of requesting an extraordinary meeting in the Italian capital, which will take place on Friday April 27. … At the behest of Liverpool, club officials will join AS Roma, UEFA and the relevant Italian police and security services to discuss specific ongoing concerns.

Merseyside Police chief superintendent Dave Charnock backed up Roma’s police demand that Liverpool fans without tickets skip the trip to Italy. According to the BBC, Liverpool was asked to put fans names on their tickets to the game.

“While we understand and appreciate that many Liverpool fans will want to travel to Rome, I would encourage fans who do not have tickets to not travel,” he said.

AS Roma, for its part, posted a photo of Cox with the statement, “His recovery and the safety of all fans attending football matches, is the only thing that matters now.”

Report: Gerrard on Rangers shortlist ahead of Old Firm Derby

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Could Steven Gerrard‘s first foray into management come against his old manager and in one of the most heated derbies in the world?

The BBC is reporting that the Liverpool legend is on the shortlist for Rangers as the Glaswegian side prepares to hire a new manager in its bid to reverse Celtic domination of the Scottish Premiership and the Old Firm Derby.

[ MORE: Fulham, NFL owner to buy Wembley? ]

Brendan Rodgers has engineered a marvelous run of form for Celtic, who went unbeaten in the league last season. Rodgers is also a sought-after managerial candidate for bigger jobs in Europe, and may not be at Celtic if and when Gerrard is hired by its rivals.

Either Celtic or Rangers have won the Scottish top flight title dating back to 1984-85, when champions Aberdeen were led by some guy named Alex Ferguson.

Rangers are facing a Manchester United moment this weekend, traveling to Celtic Park for a Sunday derby against Celtic which would see their rivals clinch the Premiership with a win.

Celtic has a 10-point lead on Rangers and Aberdeen, and is extremely likely to win its seventh-straight Premiership title. The record for most consecutive Scottish titles is nine, shared by Celtic (1966-74) and Rangers (1989-97).

Sweden announces Zlatan Ibrahimovic will not return for World Cup

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Zlatan Ibrahimovic‘s public flirtation and seeming committal to returning to the Swedish national team for the World Cup was a big tease.

Whether it’s his call or not is up for debate.

The Swedish Football Association reports that it’s spoken with Ibrahimovic and the 35-year-old LA Galaxy striker has declined the chance to return to the fold.

[ MORE: Fulham, NFL owner to buy Wembley? ]

Sweden’s sporting director Lars Richt says Ibrahimovic has not changed his mind on international retirement despite his own words.

Sweden’s current team may have a role in that.

We imagine Richt and Sweden may be cushioning the blow for Ibrahimovic, especially if national team goalkeeper Karl-Johan Johnsson is speaking on behalf of a team vibe when he speaks of Zlatan being “an individualist” who could ruin Sweden’s team-first concept.

Report: Fulham, NFL owner Khan agrees $700m price for Wembley

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Fulham owner Shad Khan also owns a National Football League team, and could have two top-flight teams from different nations playing in England soon.

For Fulham, the Cottagers are currently very much in the race for automatic promotion to the Premier League and at the least will have a chance at qualifying through the playoffs.

[ MORE: TFC loses CCL Final in PKs ]

For the Jaguars, who have rarely needed all the seats in their stadium, it could mean a move to London if Khan goes through with what’s being reported as an accepted $700 million bid to buy Wembley Stadium.

Tottenham Hotspur’s new stadium was also built with the design to host NFL games.

Here’s how ProFootballTalk’s Michael David Smith puts a bow on it (on one of the biggest days of the NFL calendar, nonetheless):

So it’s possible that there could soon be two iconic soccer stadiums in London with strong NFL ties, one which was built with NFL games in mind, and another that is owned by an NFL owner. The league is pouring serious resources into London.

It seems unlikely Khan would move Fulham from Craven Cottage, but there are other repercussions of this move for soccer in England.

There’s the potential for the England national team to no longer utlizie a permanent home, and the FA Cup and League Cup both potentially requiring new or rotating venues for their final rounds.

A lot to monitor here, and we’ll surely have all the details as they emerge from Khan’s crew.