FIFA: Chinese soccer clubs spent $450m+ on players last year

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ZURICH (AP) — FIFA says spending by Chinese soccer clubs on players soared beyond $450 million last year.

The surge in investment in foreign talent, which is intended to enhance the standard of the Chinese Super League, took the country to fifth in FIFA’s global spending rankings, released Friday, behind England, Germany, Spain and Italy.

In 2013, Chinese clubs only spent $27.8 million on international transfers. That figure leapt to $168.3 million in 2015 and climbed to $451.3 million last year.

The bulk of the spending in 2016 was to sign players from European teams, including Shanghai SIPG paying more than $60 million to Zenit St. Petersburg for Brazilian striker Hulk.

But China has imposed restrictions on the number of foreign players allowed in teams for the 2017 season in an attempt to curb the big spending. Teams are still allowed to sign up to five foreign players, but only three can appear on the pitch together.

The biggest spenders on international transfers last year were still English teams, with an outlay of $1.37 billion, including Paul Pogba‘s world-record move from Juventus to Manchester United for $116 million in August.

Globally, transfer spending rose 14 percent to a record $4.79 billion in 2016. The FIFA figures do not account for transfers within a country.