The origins of the Super League lie in a re-branding of the football pyramid in China which came about in 2004.

In the inaugural season, 12 teams contested, with the league expanding to 16 sides in the current format.

Much of this went largely unnoticed throughout the world of football.

That was until last year when the Chinese government set out on a path to turn the country into a super-power of the game.

Targeting qualification to World Cups by developing their own national talent, as well as hosting the finals, the companies that own the 16 Super League clubs have looked to garner favour by attracting big names and investing more in the game at grassroots level – one of the ultimate aims of China’s president Xi Jinping.

Last January was a watershed moment as, unlike with other failed attempts to kick-start a football revolution across the globe, Super League outfits were able to attract big-name talent still at their peak and coveted by other, more traditional clubs.

Both Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka had turned out for Shanghai Shenua previously but they were long-gone before the boom.

A year ago, the likes of Jackson Martinez, Ramires of Chelsea, Gervinho and Alex Teixeira all opted to relocate to China, with Hebei China Fortune’s signing of Ezequiel Lavezzi from Paris St Germain arguably the most eye-catching deal.

Managers have also been attracted to China, with a host of successful coaches now plying their trade in the Super League such as Luiz Felipe Scolari, Andre Villas-Boas, Gus Poyet, Manuel Pellegrini, Felix Magath and Fabio Cannavaro.

The free-spending teams of the division are targeting some of the game’s biggest stars from around the globe.

The upcoming summer transfer window is expected to tempt more big names to the Chinese Super League with its riches.

The likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang are among the most recent names to be linked.

But what is the history behind the Super League and can its recent growth continue exponentially and go unchecked?

The Football Group answer the key questions.

But that is just one transfer window, what is the big deal?

There was another big deal to be made during the summer window as Brazil forward Hulk moved to Shanghai SIPG from Zenit.

The deal broke the transfer record in Chinese football and Hulk became one of the best-paid players in the world as a result.

This January has already seen Oscar and John Obi Mikel depart Chelsea for Super League clubs, while Axel Witsel claims to have turned down a move to Juventus to join Tianjin Quanjian.

The biggest signing was that of former Manchester United, Manchester City and Juventus striker Carlos Tevez, who joined Shenua on a deal believed to net the 32-year-old in excess of £600,000 a week.

So does that mean the Super League will just continue to grow?

Not quite.

There is already a cap on the number of overseas players each squad can register, with clubs allowed four foreign players and one from another Asian Football Confederation member country.

But clubs can still spend what they want on those overseas stars?

For the time being, yes.

But China’s General Administration of Sport has recently accused Super League clubs of “burning money” and suggested it will look at capping big spending in the future to “ensure favourable financial conditions.”

The introduction of such measures is likely to see an end to constant increases in transfer fees and wages as the league levels out and President Jinping’s ambitions of homegrown players improving and being given the chance to play alongside some elite stars will bear fruit.

The Vision

Chinese President Xi Jinping has a golden vision for football in his country which is driving the Super League revolution.

President Xi has set out a 10-year plan, running from 2015 to 2025, to double the size of the Chinese sports economy to more than £600billion, based on state and private investment in football.

He wants to produce 100,000 players by ploughing money into grassroots football and creating 20,000 new ‘football schools’ and 70,000 pitches by 2020.

His plan is to turn China into a superpower in the sport, capable of qualifying for, hosting and then winning the World Cup. China are currently 83rd in the FIFA rakings, between Antigua & Barbuda and the Faroe Islands.

They have only appeared at a World Cup finals once before, going out at the group stage without scoring a single goal.

Big Business

The huge offers being made to European and South American stars are possible because Chinese Super League teams have been bankrolled by massive corporate investment.

Shanghai SIPG, Shanghai Shenhua, Jiangsu Suning and Guangzhou Evergrande Taobao – champions for the last six years – have been the biggest spenders willing to pay over the market value to sign big-name stars.

China has also tried to raise its football profile abroad. President Xi was given a guided tour of Manchester City’s new academy last year shortly before China Media Capital announced a state-backed £265m investment in Sheikh Mansour’s company.

West Brom and Aston Villa have also received Chinese backing.

Source – UK and European Media