London: Long-serving Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger believes that India has the potential to become the next big football transfer powerhouse after China, with the hugely successful India Super League (ISL) becoming the likely destination for some of the world’s big players.
China’s Super League clubs have been grabbing headlines in the transfer market by splurging huge fees on overseas players but with ISL gaining popularity, Wenger said India could be the next country to lure major European football stars.
“It takes years of culture and work. You don’t create a top league just like that. In England it was created 150 years ago and we still struggle," the 67-year-old Wenger said when asked about China’s Super League clubs poaching some of the world’s top players with huge salaries. “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 was quoted as saying by British media.
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. There were also reports that the likes of Chelsea’s Diego Costa and Edinson Cavani of Paris St Germain were targeted with offers which no English club can compete with.
Indian Super League, on the other hand, already has some big names like Diego Forlan, Florent Malouda, Luis Garcia and John Arne Riise, while Steve Coppell, Zico, Marco Materazzi and Gianluca Zambrotta have all managed in ISL.
Wenger, however, said that India and China should not expect immediate success. “It’s a slow process of creating a football culture. You are educated as a little boy by your parents about football and that goes through the next generations. And that takes time to be a really big part of the population," said Wenger, one of the most recognisable managers in the English Premier League.
“We don’t know in 10 years’ time that China will still do it. Sometimes it’s a political decision that can change." Wenger, who coached Japan’s J-League side Nagoya Grampus Eight from 1995 to 1996 before Arsenal came calling, added: “When I went to Japan it was 1995 and their professional league had been created in 1993. You expect reflexes that are not there because (players) don’t have the culture of professional football. It will take time."