The comments by Zhang Dazhong, chief executive of its Alisports unit, come as Chinese football clubs rank second only to English in spending during the winter transfer window and President Xi Jinping harbours dreams of winning a World Cup, and with the country set to host the 2022 Winter Olympics.

Alibaba, which owns a 37 percent stake in Asian football champions Guangzhou Evergrande Taobao, launched Alisports in September to develop the sporting economy in 'an innovative way with digital thinking', according to its website.

"Alibaba would like to convert their nearly 500 million people or users into sportsmen and to utilise its strengths to help them," Zhang told Hong Kong's South China Morning Post newspaper.

In the months since its establishment, Alisports has signed deals to stream NFL American football games in China, sponsor FIFA's Club World Cup, and partnerships with both world amateur boxing body AIBA and the governing organisation for basketball FIBA.