HONG KONG (Reuters) - Chinese champions Guangzhou Evergrande have no plans to make any additions to their squad in the mid-season transfer window, which looks set to open on Monday in an air of uncertainty because of proposed new regulations.
Estimates of spending by Chinese Super League clubs in the last transfer window, which closed at the end of February, range up to $500 million with the likes of Carlos Tevez, Axel Witsel and Oscar lured to East Asia.
A regulation change that restricted the use of foreign players in domestic matches followed immediately, as the Chinese authorities looked to stem the flood of money leaving the country in transfer fees and wages.
Another regulatory change proposed by Chinese Football Association (CFA) this week looks set to encourage a cautious approach from clubs in the new window and a repeat of the big splurge on foreign talent is highly unlikely.
Guangzhou’s reason for not adding to a squad coached by Luiz Felipe Scolari which already includes Brazilian Paulinho and Colombian Jackson Martinez is rather simpler - they are doing well enough as it is.
“We have reached all of the goals we set at the start of the season, so we are happy,” said vice president Liu Yongzhuo.
“I think the Chinese domestic league and the Asian Champions League are becoming more competitive and the league is improving but so far we have no plans to add to our squad.”
Guangzhou have already qualified for the quarter-finals of the Asian Champions League and are two points clear of Shanghai SIPG after 12 games of the 30-game CSL season with Hebei CFFC in third, four points further adrift.
None of the top three are expected to be active in the upcoming transfer window, which will remain open until July 14, especially after Shanghai and Hebei spent heavily over the New Year.
The transfer levy proposed by the CFA to the 32 clubs in China’s top two divisions, which is expected to be ratified on the eve of the transfer window opening, will also have an impact.
Under the proposal, foreign signings costing more than 45 million yuan ($6.60 million) and fees for Chinese players of more than 20 million yuan would attract a levy for clubs whose 2016 accounts show them to be in debt.
Beijing-based Shoto Zhu, chief executive of Oceans Sports and Entertainment, said he thought that while the levy might deflate the China spending bubble in the short term, it would not burst it.
“I don’t think these regulations will last long, but I think for this window clubs won’t spend much money,” he told Reuters.
“In China what happens when you have new regulations is that people try to find ways around them and I‘m looking forward to seeing how they do that.”
While the top clubs look likely to keep their powder dry, those pushing for a top three finish in the CSL - which brings with it a berth in the Asian Champions League - and those fighting against relegation may be more inclined to spend.
The threat to bring in spending curbs has already had an impact on newly-promoted Tianjin Quanjian, who had been casting covetous glances towards Diego Costa and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in their quest for a top class goal scorer.
Jiangsu Suning, who finished as runners-up in the league and the Chinese FA Cup last year, might be tempted to splash some cash having just brought Fabio Capello on board to get them out of relegation trouble after a disastrous start to the season.
Beijing Guoan are also under new management with the arrival of German coach Roger Schmidt to replace Jose Gonzalez and the capital club could also be keen to make a statement.
($1 = 6.8140 Chinese yuan renminbi)
Reporting by Michael Church in Hong Kong, Editing by Nick Mulvenney