When the Chinese Super League summer transfer window closed at midnight on Friday, the country’s authorities could feel quietly satisfied and declare their mission to cool the hyper-inflated player market a success.
Previous windows had seen the Asian transfer record shattered three times in 18 months and while Anthony Modeste’s move from Cologne to Tianjin Quanjian was the most expensive, it was for a fee far short of the highest paid in China.
The French forward’s transfer to Fabio Cannavaro’s side was completed for a reported 35 million euros ($40.13 million), nowhere near the 60 million euros Shanghai SIPG parted with to sign Oscar from Chelsea in January.
The big-money signings and high wages were threatening to spiral out of control, and when Hebei CFFC paid Beijing Guoan 20 million euros for local defender Zhang Chengdong, the authorities stepped in to calm rampant over-spending.
Hastily-arranged regulations implemented on June 14 saw football authorities impose a 100 percent levy on foreign signings of more than 40 million yuan ($5.90 million), leaving clubs uncertain of how to tackle the altered landscape.
Speculation that had raged for months linking high-profile strikers such as Diego Costa and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang with moves to the Chinese Super League on deals worth more than 100 million euros shuddered to a halt almost overnight.
For several weeks, Pei Shuai’s transfer from Changchun Yatai to Tianjin Quanjian was the most significant of the window, the 24-year-old having played just once for the national team when Marcello Lippi called him up during January’s China Cup.
As deadline day crept ever closer, it seemed only minor deals would be completed as teams took a cautious approach given the scrutiny of the authorities.
Indeed, the sharpest focus centred on the future of Guangzhou Evergrande’s Paulinho, the league’s standout player so far this season, who has been the subject of an approach by Barcelona.
The Spanish side are likely to test Guangzhou’s resolve again after two failed bids and a refusal to do business before Friday meant the six-time champions would be unable to sign a replacement should the 28-year-old eventually depart.
Guangzhou have, however, welcomed back striker Muriqui, who was instrumental in the club’s initial rise from China’s second division to becoming Asian champions, with the 31-year-old inking a six-month contract for the league leaders.
Muriqui joined as a free agent after cancelling his contract with Vasco da Gama in a move that could become a precursor for more deals in the future as Chinese authorities continue their quest to regulate a market that was once close to unmanageable.