BEIJING (AP) Brazilian forward Alexandre Pato has signed with Tianjin Quanjian, the latest major acquisition by the Chinese Super League.
Pato posted on Twitter Monday that he was “very happy” to join Quanjian from Spanish club Villarreal. Tianjin did not immediately confirm a report in Chinese state media that his transfer fee was $19.3 million.
The 27-year-old Pato scored six goals in 24 appearances for Villarreal after playing just twice during a disappointing loan spell at English giants Chelsea. He has been in and out of Villarreal’s starting lineup amid rumors of a transfer to China.
Quanjian, promoted to China’s Super League after winning the second tier last year, also acquired Belgium’s Axel Witsel this month and is coached by former Italy captain Fabio Cannavaro.
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China has spent heavily to bring in international stars and build up its football infrastructure at all age levels, with the stated goal of producing a national team capable of winning the World Cup by 2050. The big contracts handed out by its clubs have raised some alarm among major European clubs that previously had no rival in signing the world’s top talent.
And skepticism is starting to grow in China. The governing body of Chinese soccer announced Jan. 16 that it would reduce the number of foreigners allowed to appear at any given time for a club from four to three, along with other steps targeting “recent irrational investments by clubs, high-figure transfer fees and salaries paid to domestic and international athletes and other issues.”