Chinese Super League set to impose foreign player restriction for matchdays

Clubs will be able to field no more than three overseas players at a time

Chelsea, Ramires, China

Former English Premier League Chelsea player Ramires Santos do Nascimento of Brazil, center, shakes hands with Chinese soccer fans on his arrival at Nanjing Lukou International Airport in Nanjing in east China's Jiangsu province. Ramires has signed a four-years contract with China Super League Jiangsu Suning Football Club. (Color China Photo via AP)

Chinese Super League teams will only be able to play three foreign players in matches from the start of their new season.

It comes as Chelsea striker Diego Costa becomes the latest player to be targeted by a big money move to the country.

Five foreigners will still be allowed in their matchday squads of 18.

But only three can take to the field at any one time, rather than the current limit of four which included one non-Chinese foreign player from a member country of the Asian Confederation of Football (AFC).

The new rules were planned for 2018, but have been brought forward.

It is a bid to aid the development of Chinese players in order to afford more playing time to footballers eligible for the Chinese national team.

In recent months, clubs from the Chinese Super League have been able to acquire a host of European based players from enormous transfer fees and high wages.

This month, Chelsea saw Nigerian midfielder John Obi Mikel and Brazilian attacking midfielder Oscar join Tianjin Teda and Shanghai SIPG for a combined €68 million (Mikel moved on a free transfer).

In 2016, ex-Chelsea midfielder Ramires left for Jiangsu Suning for about €28 million.

Ex-Manchester City and Man United striker Carlos Tevez became one of the highest paid player in the world when he joined Shanghai Shenhua from Argentina's Boca Juniors.