Lawrie McKinna does not expect the influx of Australian players in China to slow any time soon.
The affluence of Chinese football has dominated world headlines, but Lawrie McKinna’s experience as a coach in the Chinese Super League was a far cry from the modern landscape.
McKinna arrived at Chengdu Blades, who have since been relegated from the top flight, in 2011.
The club were known for having the lowest operating budget in the league – just $5million – which was just about enough to bring in fellow Australians Jonas Salley, Brendon Santalab and Adam Kwasnik.
In excess of 30 Australians have played in the CSL with eight currently plying their trade in the Far East, headlined by all-time top Socceroos scorer Tim Cahill (Hangzhou Greentown) and fellow internationals Matthew Spiranovic (Hangzhou Greentown), Trent Sainsbury (Jiangsu Suning) and James Troisi (Liaoning Whowin).
It might have been even more had the likes of Melbourne City’s Aaron Mooy been tempted to make the move.
And McKinna believes more Australians will make the switch, especially as the money on offer continues to grow.
“You could see [the growth] was coming,” he told Omnisport.
“The money was nothing like it is now when I was there. The money was way more than what it was in Australia, but it’s nothing like what they’re getting now.”
McKinna estimated that the contract for the average Australian playing in China had doubled in the last four years.
“Adrian Leijer was there last year and obviously Sainsbury, [Michael] Thwaite and Spiranovic have gone, there’s a few going and it’s big money,” he said.
“Some of these transfers that are getting paid are unbelievable.
“You compare it to when I was there, I think – as far as I know – the average or basic contract now is $30,000 net a month for an Aussie boy.
“That’s the basic one. So it’s that and upwards.
“The boys I had over there were on less than half of that and that was only four years ago.
“It’s doubled in four years.”
McKinna added that the fact the CSL was growing in stature and the commercial opportunities it could present would only make the league more attractive, pointing to Cahill – who sought to stay in China and move to Hangzhou after being released from Shanghai Shenhua.
“I think the league is getting more credibility. Maybe people [in Australia] were surprised when Cahill went, but I wasn’t. He was unbelievable in the Premier League and blitzed it in America but he’s looking way above football,” he said.
“He’s looking at his brand. He’s huge in the UK, he’s established in America, and now in Asia. He’s covered it.
“People might have rolled their eyes at him moving to China, but he’s the smart one.
“But he’s over there working his arse off, producing the goods because if you’re a foreigner and not performing, you’re out of there.”