Chinese Super League powerhouse Guangzhou Evergrande has reportedly slashed its annual salary cap to a pre-tax 5 million yuan ($715,000)-exactly half the figure the CSL is enforcing for its league-wide limit.

The move is part of the club’s overall strategy of shifting its focus away from acquiring big-name foreign players to nurturing homegrown talent.

Evergrande’s squad currently features some of the best-paid, most high-profile players in the league, including Brazilian midfielders Paulinho and Talisca, as well as Brazil-born naturalized duo Ai Kesen (aka Elkeson) and Luo Guofu (aka Aloisio).

According to a People’s Daily report on Friday, Evergrande has set five salary levels for its first team: Absolute core (5 million yuan), core (3.5m yuan), substitute core (2m yuan), substitute and candidate player (both 300,000 yuan).

The club has also set four salary levels for its reserve and youth squads. The “core” reserves can earn up to 300,000 yuan, with the other brackets dropping down to 280,000,260,000 and 240,000 yuan. The youth team caps are 240,000,180,000, 96,000 and 36,000.

The club is also implementing a new incentives policy, with promotions for 50 percent of first-and reserve-team members up for grabs annually, and 70 percent of the youth squad potentially making the grade.

However, to avoid creating the impression that the players are purely money driven, Evergrande has stipulated that the salaries of first-team newcomers will be capped at 3 million yuan for the first three years. “The aim is to refine the club’s structure and motivate the players with a more scientific and effective salary system,” Evergrande said in a statement quoted in the People’s Daily report.

“We will constantly send high-quality young talent to the club’s reserve and first-tier teams.”

Boasting one of the most expensive squad’s in the league, the eight-time defending CSL champion could find it difficult to hold on to Paulinho and the rest of its highest-paid stars under the new system.

If it does have to shed some big names, however, Evergrande appears prepared to endure some short-term pain for long-term gains.

The cap could also encourage younger talent to seek better-paid opportunities abroad.

Some observers have blamed the lack of Chinese talent in foreign leagues on the handsome wages homegrown players can earn in the CSL.

Wu Lei remains the only Chinese international playing in a major European league, although that will cease to be the case when the La Liga season wraps up this week following the relegation of his club, Espanyol, to Spain’s second tier.

Despite the potential exodus of top talent, most fans and media agree that it is a price worth paying in order to secure a more sustainable future for the domestic game.

“About 50 percent of Evergrande’s first-tier and reserve-squad players are products of its youth academy,” read a People’s Daily commentary.

“These measures show Evergrande’s determination to nurture more young talent. It will also help the young players develop healthy values in regards to money, which will in turn benefit the development of the Chinese professional league in the longer term and help the growth of Chinese soccer.”

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