So by now you are probably aware of many players jumping ship and heading off to China. The reason, as you can guess, is obviously for financial rather than sporting reasons.
This has me torn.
On one hand, I question the ambition of players in their prime like 25-year-old Brazilian international Oscar, who left Chelsea for Shanghai SIPG for a reported fee of €70 million, where he will earn almost €24 million annually.
Does he really want to win the Chinese Super League? A league that has only been in existence since 2004. I doubt it was his dream growing up in the streets of Americana in Sao Paulo. But for €24 million each year, he can play like it was.
That’s where I am torn. I would do the exact same. Any sane person would I guess. Football is a short career and you are much longer retired than you are playing (unless your name is Francesco Totti). And the only real loyalty in football is fan loyalty. There are exceptions of course – such as true one-club-men for example (see Francesco Totti).
In the last couple of years, a plethora of talent has flocked to the far east. Players such as Robinho, Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka have all been and gone. But even more recently, the massive sums of money are luring even more prominent players and managers.
Luiz Felipe Scolari, Andre Villas Boas, Gus Poyet, Felix Magath, Manuel Pellegrini and Fabio Cannavaro are among the name who made China their home. And probably not for the scenery.
But it’s the players who are earning ridiculous money. Aside from Oscar, here’s a list of the annual salaries of some of the league’s most prominent players:
- Hulk, 30, (Brazil) Shanghai SIPG. €20 million.
- Ezequiel Lavezzi, 30, (Argentina) Hebei China Fortune. €20 million.
- Graziano Pelle, 31, (Italy) Shandong Luneng. €16 million.
- Ramires, 28, (Brazil) Jiangsu Suning. €14 million.
- Jackson Martinez, 29, (Colombia) Guangzhou Evergrande Taobao. €13.4 million.
- Alex Teixeira, 26, (Brazil) Jiangsu Suning. €11 million.
- Gervinho (Ivory Coast), 29 Hebei China Fortune. €9.27 million.
- Fredy Guarin, 29, (Colombia) Shanghai Shenhua. €7.65 million.
- Demba Ba, 30, (Senegal) Shanghai Shenhua. €6.4 million.
- Paulinho, 27, (Brazil) Guangzhou Evergrande. €6 million.
But the biggest earner will be Carlos Tevez, who turns 33 next week, will be earning a reported €38 million annually with Shanghai Shenua. An obscene amount. What would they have to pay to get Messi or Ronaldo to play in China?
While Super League clubs are restricted to four foreign players per team, and only four can be on the field at one time, including one from a different Asian Football Confederation (AFC) country. That said, the massive wave of talent to China shows no sign of slowing down just yet.
Follow Rob Smith on Twitter (@robsmithireland)