China could take years to build football culture, says Wenger

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger

China cannot build a football culture overnight by splurging on overseas players, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has said.

The Chinese Super League recently witnessed two high-profile additions as Argentine striker Carlos Tevez joined Shanghai Shenhua and Brazilian midfielder Oscar joined Shanghai SIPG for huge salaries.

Media reports have suggested that Shanghai Shenhua paid 84 million euros ($89.66 million) for Tevez, who returned to Argentina last year after spells in England and Italy.

Oscar joined local rivals Shanghai SIPG from Chelsea in a deal believed to be worth 60 million euros ($64.04 million).

A spate of other footballers, playing in different European leagues, have also been linked to a move to China.

"You do not create a top league just like that. When you want to be a football player your first aspiration is to play in the best league with the best players," the Arsenal manager told British media.

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger

"After that, you want to combine playing in the best league with the best players for the maximum amount of money. That combination is best in England right now. But professional football in England was created 150 years ago.

"And we still struggle. I believe it's a slow process of creating a football culture. In China it's new. The culture of professional football is not there. So it will take time."

Wenger, along with Chelsea counterpart Antonio Conte, had previously expressed concern that a growing number of players could be lured to the Far East by the riches on offer in the Chinese Super League.

Wenger, however, felt the game has made strides in the world's most populated country and expects India to make their mark soon.

"But China has moved forward. It tries to promote football and I'm happy that football has become popular in China. I also expect India to come to the game too you know. I hope it will happen," the Frenchman said.