• Andrew Collins

The 5 Biggest 2017 Summer Transfers Online in China

Updated: May 27, 2019


As the dust settles on what was another record breaking transfer window, we’ve taken a look at China’s favourite viral platform, Weibo, to establish which signing announcements created the most buzz in China.

Top 5

  1. Zlatan Ibrahimovic re-signed by Man United

  2. James Rodriguez from Real Madrid to Bayern Munich

  3. Romelu Lukaku from Everton to Man Utd

  4. Neymar Jr. from Barcelona to PSG

  5. Nemanja Matic from Chelsea to Man Utd

Manchester United have the largest following of any football club on Weibo with over 9 million followers, so it comes as no surprise that their signing announcements were very popular overall, making up 3 of the top 5.

The news of fan favourite Ibrahimovic re-signing with United was the most popular with a total engagement of 5,600 (a combination of likes, reposts and comments). Individual players carry a lot of influence with Chinese fans, 76.1% of which say they support a club because of their favourite player, over the success of the club. Zlatan is a popular figure amongst fans and has 95,000 followers on his personal Weibo account also contributing to the popularity of the event. Lukaku’s £75 million signing came in third (3,792 engagement) and Matic’s move from Chelsea in fifth (2,133), again showcasing the club’s huge, active fan base online in China.

Bayern’s acquisition of James Rodriguez on a two year loan from Real Madrid accumulated 4,275 total engagements. Similarly to Manchester United, Bayern have a strong online presence in China with 3.25 million followers on Weibo, and were ranked as the number one most engaged club on the platform in the Red Card 2017 report.

James was one of the signings of the summer for Bayern and, as the deal also involved Real Madrid, interest levels were particularly high. This helped make it the most popular Bayern signing of the summer, even though it is only a loan deal. Another example of how early excitement translates to online activity was Arsenal’s signing of Alexandre Lacazette, it too was completed early in the window and ended up becoming their most engaged signing of the window.


Neymar’s £200 million move from Barcelona to PSG smashed the record transfer fee. The announcement gained a total engagement of 2,748, below what would be expected for a signing of this size. Osumane Dembele’s £97 million signing with Barcelona presented the same scenario, reaching only 2,007 total engagement, although he was much less well known than Neymar in China and this explains the relatively lower numbers.

PSG do not have a large presence on Weibo relative to the other top clubs, with a total of 1.2 million followers. This meant the transfer did not have the same impact online China as others. As well as this, Neymar’s transfer would not have come as a surprise to many, with talk surrounding the move having gone on for a long time. This left fans less interested by the time it was officially announced, again giving reason to the lower than expected engagement. That said, Neymar received 120,000+ mentions throughout the period of his announcement which is significantly higher than Zlatan or Lukaku, who received 53,000+ and 22,000+ mentions respectively. This shows that even though fans did not engage as largely with the announcement, there was still a major interest.

Takeaways

  1. Transfers towards the beginning of the window tend to attract more interest than towards the end.

  2. A higher transfer fee does not necessarily mean an increase in engagement, however it does receive higher levels of interest.

  3. If transfers are drawn out over a long period of time, fans lose interest and engagement is lower as a result.

  4. Personal Weibo accounts positively affect the size of a transfer online in China


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