In 2016, Chinese Super League clubs had unsettled European powerhouses with their spending spree across Europe. Collectively, CSL clubs had spent more than £400 million to bring in some high-profile talents, including the likes of Oscar, Jackson Martinez, Alex Texeira, Gervinho, and Hulk. The league also attracted managers like Rafa Benitez, Manuel Pellegrini, Andre Villas-Boas, and Bruno Genesio.

Back then, the emergence of the Chinese Super League appeared to be an ominous sign for European football. For years, Europe had been the Mecca of football. To reach the peak of success, all footballers aspired to play in a top European league. But, the sudden rise of the Chinese Super League challenged the supremacy of European football.

CSL clubs had the financial means to poach top players and managers. So, it was not utterly preposterous to assume back then that Chinese domestic football will increasingly narrow the gap between itself and its European counterparts. Even if it fails to displace Europe as the ultimate football destination for world-class talents, it might fade the European appeal to a significant degree.

Five years fast forward, however, the Chinese Super League paints a very different picture. The Chinese government’s reluctance to allow a substantial cash flow out of the country eventually outweighed its willingness to expand the brand of its domestic football. The introduction of transfer taxes and tight salary caps subsided the charisma of CSL to foreign footballers.

The teams started to lose their star players and managers. Unsurprisingly, this coincided with a loss of revenue. With so many financial handicaps in place, clubs struggled to balance their books, and soon the consequences began to surface.

Jiangsu FC lifted the CSL title last year, but they declared bankruptcy earlier this year as the club’s parent company Suning threw in the towel to cut their losses. The name Suning sounds familiar? They are the owners of Serie A giants Inter Milan, who sold two of their best players Romelu Lukaku and Achraf Hakimi to compensate for the financial woes of their majority shareholders.

Guangzhou Evergrande are the most successful club in CSL history, having won eight CSL titles. As the name implies, they are owned by the infamous Evergrande Group, which have amassed debts worth £225 billion. As a result, the financial state of Guangzhou Evergrande is in shambles as well.

With the league’s biggest clubs pulling out all the stops to stay afloat, it should not be difficult to imagine the dire financial situations of other clubs in the division.

The Chinese Football Association’s obsession to return to the World Cup has also added to the misery of the CSL.

The CFA felt it would be the best for the Chinese national team players if they could stay fully focused on their national team duties during the World Cup qualifiers. So, it has moved to suspend the league from August to December. A week of international break makes you feel restless? Imagine being a CSL fan then!

How is this ‘’national team only’’ policy working out? Not up to standard would be a nice way to put it!

China lie fifth in the six-team qualification group after four round of matches. The top two teams will directly go through, whilst the third one will qualify for a play-off position. As of now, it seems unlikely that China will be able to surpass any of Saudi Arabia, Australia, Japan, and Oman and engineer a way out of their group.

The Chinese Super League is on the brink of falling apart, and it is a massive setback for the football-crazed country, which is setting its sights to become a World Champion by 2050. The football authorities in China need to come up with a more sustainable model to develop talents and recruit the right profile of international footballers that can keep the league competitive without imposing unrealistic financial burdens.