Ex-Jet’s caution on Chinese Super League

Despite another January of big-money signings, the Chinese Super League (CSL) is unlikely to rival European competitions due to a lack of stability, according to former Newcastle Jets and Liaoning Whowin defender Josh Mitchell.

This year’s January transfer window has seen the likes of Ramires, Fredy Guarin and Gervinho depart Europe for CSL clubs, while Socceroos Trent Sainsbury, James Troisi and Ryan McGowan have also headed east.

Transfer news: Socceroo signs with Chinese club

Transfer reports: Socceroo duo moving to China

In fact, the CSL has collectively spent more money in transfer fees this month than any other league.

It has sparked plenty of discussion about the future of Chinese football and whether the CSL could one day be rated amongst the world’s premier competitions.

Josh Mitchell

Mitchell, who played for Liaoning in 2014 and 2015, reckons the way business is traditionally conducted in China hurts the long-term future of the CSL.

“It [the CSL] will continue to grow and to be very lucrative for players, but the stability, the infrastructure within the clubs and the federation… is not in place,” he told Goal Australia.

Mitchell points to the regular changes to clubs’ names and location as one significant blow to the CSL’s long-term stability.

For example, Yiteng FC – a second division club where Mitchell’s former Perth Glory team-mate Adam Hughes plays – has been relocated over 2400 kilometres south from Harbin to Shaoxing for the 2016 season.

Adam Hughes

“I can’t imagine the traditions of Chinese culture and how they do things will change [and] it doesn’t suit football and it won’t allow the CSL to become one of the biggest leagues in the world,” Mitchell said.

“But it still will probably become the biggest league in Asia.”

Despite being well aware of the CSL’s limitations, Mitchell reckons the competition can benefit Australians both on and off the pitch.

The salaries have been well documented but the CSL’s limitations on foreign players – each club may have five in their squad – is a good thing for the likes of Sainsbury and Troisi, according to Mitchell.

Trent Sainsbury

Sainsbury has joined Jiangsu Suning, where he will play alongside former Chelsea midfielder Ramires this season, and the former PEC Zwolle central defender will be required to play a leading role both in games and at training for Dan Petrescu’s side.

“There’s added pressure on the foreigners. They’re expected to do more, they’re expected to be the leaders at training, the ones who drive the professionalism, the quality,” Mitchell said.

Mitchell played an advising role in Liaoning’s recruitment of Troisi and ex-Glory centre-back Michael Thwaite this month.

At the time of writing, seven Australians will play in the 2016 CSL.

Michael Thwaite

“It shows that we [Australians] have a good name there and can continue to be a force in the Chinese Super League,” Mitchell said.

With the transfer window coming to a close, Mitchell is still a free agent since being released by Liaoning midway through last year.

He is training in Sydney by himself to keep fit as he awaits his next contract.

The Newcastle-born central defender would love another chance to play in China but knows he has to be patient and flexible.

“It’s the football world,” Mitchell said.

“Somebody calls you and says ‘yep, this is going to work out, I’ve got this deal for you’ and then you don’t hear from them again.

“So I’m just keeping fit and training hard, and whatever happens it’s in agents’ hands.”