Expect more Aussies in China

The Sydney-based agent who has brokered a plethora of Chinese Super League deals believes the recent punitive rule changes on visa players has not slammed the door on Australians exploiting the market.

Trent Sainsbury, Tim Cahill and Ryan McGowan

Trent Sainsbury, Tim Cahill and Ryan McGowan have all had successful spells in China. Source: Getty Images

Ante Alilovic negotiated both Tim Cahill's deals in China and took South Korea defender Kim Kee Hee there for a K-League record, not to mention a host of Australians over the years.

And he predicts that the scrapping of the 3+1 Asian rule, and the limit of three starting spots for foreigners per game, will last no more than a single season as the China government moves to rein in the excesses of cash-drunk club chiefs.

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Lacking the star power of other imports, Australians have been tipped to suffer the consequences of the clampdown, with Socceroos defender Trent Sainsbury already loaned out by Jiangsu Suning to sister club Inter Milan after being deemed surplus to requirements.

Despite the downturn, Alilovic - dubbed the 'king of China' by some his Australian counterparts - still masterminded last month's arrival of Socceroo James Holland at Liaoning Whowin.

And he doesn't see his core business drying up any time soon.

"I certainly don't think the market is doomed for Australians in general," he said.

"In the short-term that could be true for the bigger clubs but even then they are the ones who play in the Asian Champions league where the 3+1 rule still applies.

"Some may still sign an Aussie and pay him big money just for that tournament.

"The smaller clubs, like Liaoning, will always offer opportunities - so while it's difficult I wouldn't say that Australians aren't wanted in China any more."

Alilovic is convinced that likely pressure from the Asian Football Confederation and FIFA will force the Chinese government to allow the Chinese FA to reinstate the 3+1 rule, possibly as soon as next year in what would be a soft landing for Australian exports.

"I think FIFA are concerned how things are being run in China and the fact the Chinese FA are not an independent body and were basically ordered to make the changes by the government.

"The government are trying to end the spending spree because it's got out of hand.

"But the Asian players don't have anything to do with that ... they are not the ones being signed for countless millions.

"So it doesn't make much sense for the Asian player quota to be cut out.

"I think the minister involved has a bit of egg in his face over it and things will change again next year, and maybe sooner than that even.

"I see it going back to the 3+1 Asian quota with the introduction of a salary cap by 2018.

"That would make sense - let's say a cap of $US 30-40 million per transfer (as opposed to the $US52 million paid by Shanghai SIPG for Brazilians Oscar and $US47 million for Hulk).

"That would be a case problem solved and with the pressure coming to bear, I think that will be the scenario sooner rather than later."


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3 min read
Published 9 February 2017 at 8:51pm
By Dave Lewis