Oscar (L), Ricardo Carvalho (M), Hulk (R) with Shanghai SIPG jersey, Courtesy of South China Morning Post
CAIRO – 16 February 2018: The Chinese Super League has burst into the elite football field and has done so not only by signing players at the end of their career, but also by convincing them to leave Europe in full maturity.
The economic potential of a competition that is still light years away from media focus is constantly increasing, and the Chinese clubs satisfy the high players' needs.
The American Major League Soccer (MLS) is no longer the only option to achieve a last, big contract away from the Old Continent.
There was a time when the route seemed even fixed. David Beckham, Roy Keane and Thierry Henry opened the way to the MLS years ago.
After achieving great successes in Europe, they had to end up giving the last blows in the United States. America was not just a place hungry for quality soccer, since its choice should be understood also in terms of marketing.
If we considered the personal aspect, the quality of life in North America is a future investment at the family level. But now, with the explosion of the Chinese Super League, the American dream has a little less strength.
Also, players like Pep Guardiola, Xavi Hernandez, Raul Gonzalez and Fabio Cannavaro have looked to Qatar’s “petro-dollars” in the last decade.
Something to a lesser extent has also happened with Indian soccer. The short duration of the Superliga India – only three months – turns the passage through this country into a brief adventure.
Roberto Carlos or Marco Materazzi opted to be both players and coaches of their respective teams.
While the other adventures lose strength, the Chinese one grows more every day. It is that the economic investments of their clubs seem to have no ceiling – transfers of up to €60 million ($75 million) for Oscar from Chelsea and salaries at the level of those of Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo that exceed €20 million per year, as happened with Tévez.
Not even the new regulations, which require a 100% tax to be disbursed at each signing, seems to have slowed down the dynamics.
But money is not everything. Many of the players who leave for China do not adapt to their new life. The clubs have a majority of local footballers, which hinders the relationship of foreign players with their environment. At that point, the language is an important handicap. Thus, there are many who choose to return to Europe (or South America) when they have the opportunity. The case of Didier Drogba, who in 2012 did not endure even half a year in Shanghai Shenhua, serves as a clear example.