A new spending rule in China makes it unlikely that players such as Diego Costa and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will be moving there this summer as the transfer window opens on Monday.
Any club that pays a transfer fee above €5.9 million (£5.1m) for a foreign player has to pay the equivalent amount to the Chinese Football Development Foundation, meaning anyone will essentially cost them double.
The Chinese Super League has become known for spending massive amounts of money in the last two years, with Shanghai SIPG signing Oscar for £60m in January and Hulk for £46.1m in June 2016.
Other players who have moved to China include Alex Teixeira, Ramires and Gervinho, but now the country’s attacks on the European transfer market may stop as suddenly as they started.
WHO HAS BEEN LINKED TO CHINA?
Chelsea's Costa and Borussia Dortmund's Aubameyang have both been heavily linked to Chinese Super League clubs, as has Wayne Rooney.
Cristiano Ronaldo sparked interest in the Far East after he said last week he no longer wanted to play in Spain, whilst clubs have also been keeping tabs on Ashley Young, James Rodriguez and Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
WILL ANY OF THESE POTENTIAL TRANSFERS HAPPEN?
It’s unlikely. Tianjin Quanjian, managed by Fabio Cannavaro, had a reported £50m bid for Costa rejected in January and were expected to come back with a £76m offer this summer, but now that seems to be off the table as they would have to shell out double that for his services: a whopping £152m.
Free agents, such as Ibrahimovic, may end up there in the next couple of months, and some teams may still make moves for players if they believe it will be worth it.
However, this is not the only rule change that impacts clubs in the Super League.
In January, the Chinese Football Association introduced new regulation instructing that each team may only register five foreign players at any one time, and only three may play per match. Assuming no sides sell any of their non-Chinese talents, only three clubs could even sign a foreigner this summer.
WHY IS THIS RULE IN PLACE?
It’s an attempt by the country to develop domestic talent and become a world force in football. As explained, clubs will have to pay the equivalent amount of a big transfer to a national football development fund – part of President Xi Jinping’s vision for the future of China’s football, which culminates with them hosting, and winning, the World Cup.
As part of his 35-year plan, from 2015-2050, President Xi also plans to introduce 20,000 ‘football schools’ to develop over 100,000 more players. The domestic player rule also states that each team must select a minimum of two Chinese players who are under 23 years old in a matchday squad, and one of them must start each game.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR THE TRANSFER MARKET?
It basically puts the market back to where it was just a couple of years ago. In-demand players are more likely to go to top European teams, with the USA the only option for those who want to earn a lot of money playing in a less competitive league - following in the footsteps of players like Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard, who moved to the MLS in the twilight years of their respective careers.
It also means that values of players may drop back down, at least for a little while. For instance, Chelsea could have sold Costa just six months ago for around £50 million, and although he is on the transfer list, they may now ship him back to Atletico Madrid for a rumoured £26 million.