“What I think you are going to see is a lot more of the likes of– and I think this is the one most likely to happen – Wayne Rooney coming to China,” said Andy Strong, sports client manager at the sports marketing and investment company Mailman in Shanghai.
“Fabio Capello has just pitched up at Jiangsu Suning, Rooney will be available on a free and he has that huge international draw and prestige of his name.
“So the transfers are going to shift back more towards that end-of-career type player.”
Conversely, said Strong, a spin-off of the new rules could be that Chinese clubs have to improve their scouting systems to snare better-value talent, rather than merely shelling out for stellar names.
But he added that such is the cash in the Chinese game, one or two clubs might be prepared to pay the new tax to snap up a big-name foreign player in his prime.
“I would not be surprised if one or two clubs were prepared to take a hit (financially),” he said.
Strong and others also warned that while the CFA’s intentions to grow youth football were admirable, the CSL could suffer in terms of its quality and brand.
“The new rules have created some uncertainty with CSL clubs about exactly what they can do with foreign players,” Ji Zhe, director at London-based sports marketing firm Red Lantern, said.
“Whilst this uncertainty persists, I think there will be a cooling effect on the amount we see spent.”
Mark Dreyer, founder of China Sports Insider, which specialises in sports business news and analysis in the country, agrees.
Any foreign players coming to China are likely to be free transfers, bargains or “unknowns”, he said.
“In the past, clubs felt like they had a green light to spend because they had the blessing of the government and the president. It was all part of this ‘we are developing football’ over-arching football dream,” he said.
“The message now from the top levels is very clear: the spending in the wrong areas no longer has the green light.”