China is capable of discovering a home-grown player to match the quality of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, according to Shenzhen FC coach Sven-Goran Eriksson.
The Chinese Super League is considered a threat by some in European football due to fears the country's clubs could dominate the transfer market over the coming years.
Enormous fees have been paid to lure the likes of Oscar, Carlos Tevez and Hulk to China's top division, while Luiz Felipe Scolari and Andre Villas-Boas are among its most high-profile coaches.
The staggering sums being paid have raised eyebrows across the footballing world, but spending on players is not the only aspect of the game that could shift the balance in favour of the world's populous country.
China is determined become a "superpower" in the sport by 2050 and has outlined plans to get 50 million children and adults, from a population that currently stands at just under 1.4 billion, playing the game by 2020.
Former Shanghai SIPG and Guangzhou R&F manager Eriksson told Omnisport: "Football is the big thing in China today.
"That will be a threat to other countries in the future. China, if they decide to do something, they do it. Not only in football but whatever it is.
"If you think about the billion population, there must be Messis or Ronaldos out there. There must be many talented football players out there.
"The Chinese Super League is a power and China will be a world power in 10 to 15 years.
"What people see is big transfers of players and managers, but what people don't know out of China is the investment in grassroots football.
"It's incredible. Every school, every club, every federation, supporting football for young boys and girls, aged from six and seven, and that never happened before.
"What they played was ping pong, badminton, basketball and individual sports. China was never really good in team sports. They won an Olympic gold medal in volleyball which was great. But in football, no. However, wait 10 to 15 years and you will see."
Eriksson knows Chinese football better than many foreigners, having called the country home since 2013.
The 69-year-old Swede guided both R&F and SIPG to AFC Champions League qualification for the first time, taking the latter to last year's quarter-finals and a third-place finish in the CSL despite a crippling injury list.
It did not spare him the axe, however, and Eriksson has a point to prove as he bids to guide Shenzhen to promotion in 2017.
"To be a manager, you have to perform always. You cannot live in history. It's now and tomorrow that counts. I want to do a good job," added Eriksson, whose Shenzhen opened the season with a 6-0 rout of Dalian Transcendence on Sunday.
"I was very proud of the team last year. We went to the Champions League and reached the quarter-finals and we qualified for it this season.
"All the problems we had was incredible. Thanks to the Chinese players because they took the team to another level.
"I'm proud. Am I disappointed how it ended? Of course I am. That's life in football. I was disappointed for one to two days and then life goes on and then you're in next challenge. Today I am a happy man."
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