Over recent years, many high-profile footballers have moved to China to ply their trade. In 2015, the Chinese government produced a 50-point reform plan, with the aim to improve the ranking of the Chinese national team, with the country ranked 77th in the world rankings. The Chinese Super League salaries are amongst the highest in Asia and due to this, we have seen several Premier League footballers move to China to take advantage of this and improve their personal wealth.
Image credit: Betting Previews In December 2016, former Manchester United and Manchester City and global superstar, Carlos Tevez moved to Chinese Super League side Shanghai Shenhua on a wage of over £600,000 a week- making him at the time, the highest paid footballer in the world.
In 2018, the Chinese national side had seen no improvement in their national ranking. Due to this, the Chinese Super League announced that sides would need to pay 100% tax on transfer fees from foreign clubs. This was an attempt to stop Chinese sides stifling the progress of Chinese youngsters in favour of high-profile foreign talent. However, a loophole around this is to bring players in on low transfer fees but still offering players astronomical wages in the process.
To stop the spending going completely out of control, at the start of 2020, the Chinese football association implemented a salary cap in the Chinese Super League. However, there are still many loopholes which can be used if a Chinese side is looking to bring in talent from abroad, such as offering large appearance fees or goal bonuses for players- this does not count towards the salary cap. The Chinese Super League attempt to stop the league’s spending going completely out of control may over time make the league more sustainable, however the lure of wealth in China is still an attractive proposition for many.
Within this article, we will take a look at 10 players who once played in the English Premier League that are now plying their trade in China. A notable exception to this list, is current Manchester United loanee Odion Ighalo, who is on loan to the Red Devils from Chinese Super League side Shanghai Greenland Shenhua.
Brazilian international Oscar, 28, plays for Chinese Super League side Shanghai SIPG. Oscar is one of the best attacking midfielders in world football and at the time of writing, he has been capped 47 times for the Brazilian national team, scoring on 12 occasions. At 20 years of age, Oscar signed for Premier League side Chelsea for a fee of £25 million. After 4 successful seasons at the club, Oscar joined Shanghai SIPG for a reported fee of a whopping £60 million- an Asian record transfer fee. This transfer occured before the Chinese Super League brought in the transfer restrictions on foreign talent. Oscar's move to Shanghai SIPG made him one of the highest paid footballers in world football, with the midfielder earning £400,000 a week.
Marko Arnautovic, 31, plays for Chinese Super League side Shanghai SIPG, alongside Oscar. Arnautovic, an Austrian international, started off his professional career in Holland with Eredivisie side FC Twente. After three seasons with FC Twente, and a brief loan spell at Italian giants Inter Milan, Arnautovic moved to Germany and signed for Bundesliga side Werder Bremen. During his time at Inter Milan, his manager Jose Mourinho stated Arnautovic "is a fantastic person but has the attitude of a child". After three successful seasons at Werder Bremen, Arnautovic signed for Premier League side Stoke City for a fee of £2 million under Mark Hughes. After submitting a transfer request in 2017, Arnautovic signed for Stoke City's Premier League rivals West Ham United for a fee of £25 million. After two seasons at West Ham United and interest from China, Arnautovic handed in a transfer request in order to seal a move to Shanghai SIPG. In 2019, Shanghai SIPG announced for signing of Marko Arnautovic for a reported for a £22 million. Marko Arnuatovic's wages increased to £200,000 a week after making the move.
Paulinho, 31, plys his trade for Chinese Super League side Guangzhou Evergrande. Paulinho has had an illustrious career to date, starting his career in Poland before moving back to Brazil, with his impressive form for Corinthians earning him a move to Premier League side Tottenham Hotspur. After two seasons at Tottenham, Paulinho moved to Guangzhou Evergrande for a reported fee of £10 million. Surprisingly to many, Paulinho, after two seasons in the Chinese Super League signed for Spanish giants Barcelona for a fee of £40 million. In his sole season at Barcelona, Paulinho was one of the club's key players, scoring 9 goals from midfield. In 2018, Paulinho rejoined Guangzhou Evergrande on a season long loan before his loan deal was made permanent for a fee of £42 million. Paulinho is reportedly earning £260,000 a week at Guangzhou Evergrande.
Marouane Fellaini, 32, plays for Chinese Super League side Shandong Luneng Taishan. Fellaini has been capped 87 times for Belgium and spent eleven years playing in the English Premier League before moving to China at the beginning of 2019. After starting his career in Belgium side Standard Liege, Fellaini signed for Everton and spent five seasons at the club. When his manager David Moyes joined Premier League rivals Manchester United, Fellaini signed a four-year contract with the Red Devils for a fee of £27.5 million. After 119 appearances for Manchester United, Fellaini ended his spell in England and moved to China with Shandong Luneng Taishan. Fellaini earns £210,000 a week for Shandong Luneng Taishan.
Salomon Rondon, 30, plays for Chinese Super League side Dalian Yifang. Rondon has been capped 80 times by Venezuela, scoring 30 times. After starting his career in Venezuela, Rondon moved to Spain with Las Palmas and Malaga before earning a move to Russian side Rubin Kazan. After a successful spell at Rubin Kazan, Rondon moved to their Russian rivals Zenit Saint Petersburg. Rondon only spent one season at Zenit, before moving to the English Premier League with West Bromwich Albion for a then club record fee of £12 million. Rondon spent a successful three seasons at West Brom, before moving to Newcastle under Rafa Benitez. Rondon scored 11 goals for Newcastle but The Magpies could not agree a permanent deal with the forward. In 2019, Rondon signed for Dalian Yifang for a fee of £16.5 million, reuniting himself with Rafa Benitez, who is now Dalian Yifang manager.
Nico Yennaris, 27, plays for Chinese Super League side Beijing Guoan. Yennaris started his professional career with Premier League giants Arsenal but only managed to make 4 appearances for the North London side. In 2014, Yennaris joined Brentford making 144 appearances for the club over four seasons, as well as spending a brief loan spell at Wycombe Wanderers. In 2019, Yennaris moved to Beijing Guoan for an undisclosed fee.
Yennaris has been capped by England at under 17, 18 and 19 level. However, in May 2019, Yennaris was called up to the Chinese national squad and has gone on to gain 6 caps. Yennaris qualified for the Chinese national side through his mother. Nico Yennaris' Chinese name is Li Kie.
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Tyias Browning, 26, plays alongside Paulinho for Chinese Super League side Guangzhou Evergrande. Browning, born in Liverpool, started his career at Premier League side Everton but only managed 7 senior appearances for the side. Browning spent three loan spells away from Goodison Park, spending time at Football League sides Wigan Athletic, Preston North End and Sunderland respectively. Tyias Browning moved to Guangzhou Evergrande in February 2019 for an undisclosed fee.
Graziano Pelle, 34, plays for Chinese Super League side Shandong Luneng Taishan, alongside Marouane Fellaini. Pelle earns a colossal £375,000 a week for Shandong Luneng Taishan. Pelle started his career at Lecce. After failing to break into the first team picture at Lecce, Pelle moved to Dutch Eredivisie side AZ Alkmaar. Pelle spent three seasons in Holland but failed to make any sort of impact and was released in 2011. Pelle returned to Italy, signing for Parma before returning to Holland with Feyenoord on a season long loan at the start of the 2012/13 season. Feyenoord took up the option to sign Pelle on a permanent deal and the striker went on to score 50 goals in two seasons for Feyenoord. English Premier League sign Southampton then swooped for the hitman for a fee of £8 million. Pelle's time at Southampton was a successful one, with the Italian scoring 23 goals before moving to Shandong Luneng Taishan in 2016, making him the seventh highest paid player in world football.
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Stephane Mbia, 34, plays for Shanghai Greenland Shenhua, Odion Ighalo's parent club. Mbia, a Cameroon international, started his career in France and had two successful stints at Rennes and Marseille before moving to English Premier League side Queens Park Rangers. Unfortunately, Queens Park Rangers were relegated from the Premier League and Mbia moved away from the club, joining Spanish side Sevilla. Mbia spent only one season at Sevilla before moving to Turkish side Trabzonspor. One season on, Mbia was on the move again, joining Chinese Super League side Hebei China Fortune. Mbia returned to France in 2018, spending a short time with Toulouse, before returning to China with Wuhan Zall before moving to Chinese Super League rivals Shanghai Greenland Shenhua.
Zoran Tosic, 33, plays for Chinese First Division side Taizhou Yuanda. Tosic, a Serbian international, has been capped 76 times and has scored 11 goals in the process. Tosic made a name for himself for Serbian side Partizan Belgrade before moving to Premier League giants Manchester United. Unfortunately for Tosic, only a year and a half after joining Manchester United, Tosic moved on a permanent deal with Russian side CSKA Moscow. Tosic only managed two appearances for Manchester United in the Premier League. Tosic spent seven successful seasons at CSKA Moscow before returning to Serbia in 2017, re-joining Partizan Belgrade. After three seasons back at Partizan, Tosic joined Chinese second tier Taizhou Yuanda in February 2020.
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