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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.”

Lacazette gives Arsenal first leg at Olympiacos

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Alexandre Lacazette scored the lone goal as Arsenal beat hosts Olympiacos 1-0 in the first leg of a Europa League Round of 32 tie on Thursday.

The second leg is Feb. 27 at the Emirates Stadium, four days after the Gunners host Carlo Ancelotti and Everton in Premier League play.

Lacazette now has eight goals in 24 appearances for Arsenal this season.

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Lacazette missed a big early chance from close range, Gabriel Martinelli deprived of a near-certain assist.

Fortunately for Lacazette, he got a second bite at the apple and smashed it home with a vengeance. Bukayo Saka continued his impressive debut season by assisting the goal.

It was an even match, as Olympiacos continued its habit of steady defense but was unable to produce any attack. The Greeks weren’t credited with the creation of any big chances.

Bernd Leno made three saves and was very good in distribution on the day, with Saka, David Luiz, Shkrodan Mustafi, and Sokratis Papastathopoulus continuing steady defense under Mikel Arteta.

Wolves clobber Espanyol, Neves scores another magnificent volley

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Diogo Jota had a hat trick and Ruben Neves scored a very Ruben Neves goal as Wolves took a 4-0 lead over Espanyol on Thursday after one leg of Europa League Round of 32 action.

Raul Jimenez, Joao Moutinho, and Matt Doherty recorded assists for Wolves, who will visit the Portuguese side on Feb. 27.

Espanyol had 57 percent of the ball and put four shots on target to Wolves’ five.

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Wolves came out of the gates with a show of strength, taking six shots to Espanyol’s zero over the first 25 minutes.

The goal came off an Adama Traore-won corner, Raul Jimenez flicking on to Jota.

Neves’ goal came straight from his area of expertise, a beautiful bit of control with his chest before smashing home from distance.

The 23-year-old Jota scored the first, third, and fourth goals of the contest to give him two Europa League hat tricks this season. He has 12 goals and five assists in 33 appearances across all competitions this season.

Solskjaer, Mata react to Man Utd draw: ‘We can play better’

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Manchester United got an away goal in a 1-1 first leg draw with Europa League foes Club Brugge in Belgium on Thursday.

The goals were pretty individual, a big chip of Sergio Romero followed by Anthony Martial’s powerful dribble to equalize for the Red Devils.

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United outshot the hosts 16-10, but fell short in big chances created by a 3-1 margin.

Here’s Red Devils manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, via the BBC:

“It was a game with difficult conditions out there. It was almost like an astroturf. The ball was very quick and lively,” Solskjaer said. “We got the away goal. It was a very good individual goal, worked hard to win the ball and finish so we are happy with that but we know we can play better.”

The second leg is Feb. 27 at Old Trafford, four days after a Premier League encounter with Watford in the same building.

United midfielder Juan Mata had a busy day, winning the majority of his tackles and creating one key pass. He expected better from his team but sees the game for what it is.

Here is Mata, from The Manchester Evening News:

“They scored a goal we shouldn’t concede. We scored a goal from their mistake. we wanted to win, obviously, 1-1 is not a very bad result, but we always want to win,” Mata said. “We just couldn’t find spaces, they defended very well with five plus four. We tried to play a few times through the middle, which we didn’t succeed to do that. Then we scored that goal and from then we played a bit better.”

Solskjaer kept Bruno Fernandes, Fred, Daniel James, and Aaron Wan-Bissaka on the bench to start the match. Fernandes and Fred came on late.

FC Cincinnati adds Ajax midfielder Siem de Jong

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FC Cincinnati got a much-needed bit of good news toward the end of a rough week in Southern Ohio.

Longtime Ajax attacker Siem De Jong has joined a talented FCC attack ahead of the club’s second MLS season.

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De Jong, 31, came up through Ajax’s vaunted academy before transferring to Newcastle United, where he suffered through a series of miserable injuries including two collapsed lungs in 18 months.

He’s been capped six times with two goals for the Netherlands in his career and will join a revitalized Cincinnati attack with Jurgen Locadia and Yuya Kubo.

“The system they want to play is quite similar to the Dutch system, and yeah, Ajax is probably one of the team’s that perfected it,” de Jong said. “Over the years I played there, I’ve learned a lot about this similar philosophy and trying to build up from the back in the Dutch style of play. That was one of the reasons why FC Cincinnati was a good fit for me. Hopefully I can help with the experience I’ve had over the years playing this style of football.”

De Jong scored three times in nine matches this season for Ajax, all of the goals coming in a cup match against third-tier Spakenburg. His other eight matches combined for just 118 minutes.

He may not be with FCC when the season starts as he waits on visa approval.