BEIJING (Reuters) - China's football association is set to almost double its spending in 2017 to improve the standards of the game but even the $98 million fund will look pittance compared to what the country's top clubs are splurging on overseas players.
Driven by soccer-loving President Xi Jinping, China is using its financial clout to invest in prestigious overseas clubs like Inter Milan, and its own teams are spending heavily to coax marquee players into the domestic game.
In the latest high-profile transfer, Shanghai SIPG signed Brazilian international Oscar from English club Chelsea in a deal said to make him the highest-paid player in the world.
Financial details of Oscar's transfer have not been released, but media reports have suggested Shanghai paid 60 million euros (about $64 million) to lure the 25-year-old to the Chinese super league club. His salary is reported to be over $600,000 a week.
China has, however, moved to tighten rules over the number of overseas players in domestic games, amid concerns that the clubs have been over-spending on foreign talent with a rapid growth in the huge fees being paid for high-profile imports.
The CFA said at a conference in central China's Wuhan that it plans to spend 670 million yuan (about $98 million), an increase of 45 percent over last year, in 2017 to support the game across the country.
Out of that fund, about $27 million will be spent on China's national teams at all levels while some $18 million will go to youth training, local media said. The projected revenue for 2017 is 780 million yuan (about $114 million).
As part of a 2020 plan, China have targeted reaching the last four of the 2019 Asian Cup, to be held in the United Arab Emirates.
The national team is currently 81st in the FIFA world rankings and reached the quarter-finals of the 2015 edition of the tournament in Australia.
Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly in Mumbai; editing by Pritha Sarkar