Real Madrid and Barcelona now appear to be closer than ever before to playing regular La Liga games in China – but just how soon could that become a reality, what obstacles still lie in the way and what sort of impact would that have on global sport?
I spoke to Sky Sports reporter Johnny Phillips last week for a piece he did on the increasing amount of Chinese investment directed at English football clubs in recent weeks. Editors being as they are, only a few selected highlights appeared in the finished article, but we covered a lot of ground, so here is an uncut version (completed shortly before the Wolves deal – the latest of the Chinese takeovers – was announced), touching on why rumours spread so quickly, West Brom’s possible owner and his plans for world domination, Sven spouting nonsense and why Wolves fans are probably sleeping better than Villa ones at the moment.
China’s long-term soccer plan calls for the country to be a global force in the game by 2050, but if China’s latest football project comes off, it would arguably become a major footballing power long before that.
The plan has been laid out by the Chinese government, backed, of course, by President Xi Jinping, but the latest moves have come from one of the country’s biggest companies – Wanda, whose boss just happens to be China’s richest man.
AC Milan is the latest in a long line of European football targets picked out by Chinese investors – and it won’t be the last.
On the football pitch, the Italians are known for a slow, tactical style that, while effective, can bore an opponent into submission.
Off the pitch, it may also be a similar story.
Stories started to spread on Monday that Chinese home appliance chain Suning was set to buy a stake in Spanish megaclub Barcelona. If true, it would have blown news of Alibaba buying a 50% stake in Guangzhou Evergrande out of the water.