BEIJING (Reuters) - China's decision to tighten rules over the number of overseas players amid concerns of over-spending on foreign talents has drawn mixed response from the clubs affected by the move.
Teams in the country's top leagues would be limited to fielding a maximum of three foreign players per game for the 2017 season, down from the current five, China's Football Association said in a statement on Monday.
Shanghai SIPG coach Andre Villas-Boas has questioned the timing of the move with the Chinese Super League kicking off on March 7.
"This decision should have been made after the season, or with a certain buffer," the Portuguese coach told reporters during his team's training camp in Qatar. "Such a huge change shouldn't be announced about a month before the new season.
"Most of the clubs' team-building plans have been in accordance with the previous rules. That's when everyone gets caught off guard," added the former Chelsea manager.
Brazil's Oscar and Argentine Carlos Tevez made big-money moves to China over the last month with Shanghai SIPG's deal to sign Oscar from English Premier League club Chelsea said to make him the highest-paid player in the world.
The spending drive prompted fierce criticism from officials and local media, with Xinhua saying earlier this month that clubs were "burning money" on overpaid foreign talent and neglecting the development of domestic players.
Su Yuhui, president of newly-promoted Tianjin Quanjian, said the abrupt move would have a negative impact on the standard of the game.
"And it will disarray many club's pre-season arrangements, and even cause economic losses," Su told Tianjin Sports TV.
Clubs would still be able to register five foreign players in their overall squad, the Chinese FA said, but the new rule would mean not all could be used in any one game, a potential disincentive to loading a squad with international imports.
Teams would also have to include two younger domestic players born in or after 1994 in their match day squad, of whom one would have to start the game.
"I know that the Chinese Football Association introduced this new deal to vigorously improve the level of local young players, but it will also lead to high prices for young players," Villas-Boas warned.
"With many purchasers competing for young players, their market value will be a serious bubble. It will be very costly to train young players and it will not be beneficial for young players to play under too much pressure."
Shandong Luneng coach Felix Magath welcomed the move.
"The new policies will offer more opportunities for the Chinese local talents, as well reduce the team's dependency on star foreign players," the former Bayern Munich manager told Xinhua.
"Maybe the effects will not seen in short term, but it will absolutely benefit the national team."
Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly in Mumbai; editing by Amlan Chakraborty