'Golden opportunity' knocks for Chinese footballers in Spain

    Fernando Torres is one of the star names at Atletico as he returned for a second spell at the club during the January transfer window.

    Story highlights

    • Chinese billionaire takes 20% stake in Atletico Madrid
    • Wang Jianlin pays $52m through his company Wanda Group
    • Trend of Asian businesses investing in football
    • Wang wants to pave way for young Chinese players to play in La Liga

    (CNN)The Chinese are coming -- to European football -- and billionaire Wang Jianlin hopes his decision to invest $52 million for a 20% stake in Spanish champion Atletico Madrid (ATM) will open doors for China's best players.

    "This investment will not only provide a golden opportunity for young Chinese players sent overseas by Wanda to be selected by leading European football clubs, it will also strengthen the quality of Chinese football and narrow the gap between the rest of the world," Wang said Wednesday.
      Wang Jianlin's Wanda Group will be the first Chinese company to invest in a top-flight European football club.
      In exchange, Wang will get a seat on Atletico's board of directors.
      By 2017, the 60-year-old Wang aims to be making annual investments of $23 million to support the development of 180 young Chinese players in Spain, an initiative dubbed China's "Future Star Program."
      Ten-time winners of the La Liga title, Atletico is a club on the up.
      Last season Diego Simeone's side not only won the Spanish title but also reached the Champions League final before losing to city rival Real Madrid.
      Its 2014-15 campaign sees Atletico making a strong defense of the La Liga crown and it also secured a Copa Del Rey win over Real last week.
      China's now second richest man previously used his wealth to establish the first Chinese professional football club -- Dalian Wanda F.C. -- just over 10 years ago. I
      It's a team that established an Asian record of going 55 matches undefeated.
      Wang is following in the footsteps of other Asian businessman who have invested in European football, with Indonesian Erik Thohir at Inter Milan and Singaporean businessman Peter Lim owning a controlling stake in Atletico's fellow La Liga side Valencia.