Research: Chinese Super League’s Surging Market Growth Bodes Well For Far East Future

It’s one of the worst-kept secrets in football that the Chinese Super League is gathering momentum as a juggernaut of the sport. This is due largely to the fact its clubs can afford to spend so much more than their European counterparts.

Chinese Super League’s Money

Analysing the market value of the Chinese Super League teams from 2008 up to the most recent season, we can see the expansion of the division has resulted in exponential growth over the past nine years. It has boosted clubs’ ability to attract the world’s best players.

Moreover, the correlation in escalating market value among its teams has corresponded with a declining number of European players represented in the Chinese Super League. Suggesting players from the continent don’t hold as much worth to China’s clubs amymore.

The highest estimated value of a club in the 2016 season was €65.37 million: Guangzhou Evergrande. Roughly  19 times higher than the biggest market value in the 2008 campaign. It was then Shanghai Shenhua and carried an estimated value of just €3.4 million.

Average total CSL market value by year

Year Total Value, mln €
2008 1.14
2009 1.71
2010 2.3
2011 6.0
2012 10
2013 8.6
2014 6.9
2015 9.5
2016 19.9


Moreover, figures show that the trend carries through to the bottom of the division. The lowest recorded market value of any CSL team in 2008 was a mere €170,000 (Changsha Ginde), compared to the lowest market value of any team last year, which was €3.28 million (Yanbian Funde). A growth of approximately 1,930%.

Chinese Super League

Chinese Super League Clubs growth

Chinese Super League clubs have generally shown consistent growth in market value over the past eight years. The period between 2012 and 2014 accounts for the only dip in estimated worth over the last eight years.

This table shows that the average market value of teams in China’s top flight has grown by almost 2,000% since 2008. It comes from an aggregate of just €1.14 million to the current average value of €19.9 million.

Chinese Super League Value

The most valuable team in 2012 (four seasons ago) was worth €39.95 million (Shanghai Shenhua), but that figure jumped 175% to a market value of €65.37 million in 2016

Based on the trajectory in market value shown over the past nine seasons, we can extrapolate data to predict the highest market value of any Chinese Super League team in 2020 could soar past the €110 million mark.

By the same calculations, the average market value of CSL teams has doubled in the four years between 2012 and 2016, from €10 million to €19.9 million. This means the average market value of clubs stands to profit by the same growth level by 2020 to an impressive €39.8 million.

European Investment Withering as South American Value Explodes

Another finding of the research indicated the Chinese Super League has turned mainly to South American players in order to chart its course of increasing worth, abandoning its former model of European investment.

CSL: European players by year

Year Europeans
2008 22
2009 18
2010 25
2011 15
2012 27
2013 19
2014 21
2015 24
2016 17

In 2004, the inaugural season of the Chinese Super League, Europeans accounted for 28 of the 44  foreign players based in the division—equal to more than half the sample. However, just 16 of the 82 total foreign players represented in the 2016 season originated from Europe as the Chinese  Super League turned its attention toward talents from South America, which could be seen as yielding better value by investment.

European players in CSL

We can look to six-time champions Guangzhou Evergrande as an example of how investment in South American stars equates to success, considering they have held the Chinese Super League crown each season from 2011 through to the last campaign.

In fact, only two of the 24 foreign players the club has employed since 2011 have been European. Meanwhile, the club has named four South Americans from the maximum four foreign player slots in four of those six seasons, choosing to fill their roster with players who appear to bring the most title success instead.


– The highest market value of any team in CSL has jumped almost 2,000% since 2008 (€3.4 million to €65.37 million)
– The average market value of CSL teams has increased by roughly the same margin (€170,000 to €3.28 million)
– Fewer Europeans are competing in CSL than ever, while South Americans are as popular as ever
– Decline in European player proportion has aligned with increase in market values

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