Why do foreign players move to China?

The last few weeks have certainly been an interesting in the world of the Chinese Super League. Newly promoted side Dalian Yifang added vastly experienced Jose Fonte to their defence and then surpassed this by going on to sign Yannick Ferreira Carrasco and Nicolas Gaitan from Atletico Madrid. Not for the first time media outlets across the world were talking about the financial power of Chinese football, you’d have been hard pressed though to find anything directly positive from anywhere other than Chinese publications.

No doubt you’ll all be aware of the score line in Dalian’s return to the CSL (8-0 to Shanghai SIPG just in case) This result has been spread across the world to ridicule and point fingers at the CSL and Dalian’s foreign stars, questioning why oh why would they ‘’ruin’’ their careers by coming to China and of course the only reason they came to China was for money and nothing else.

Money talks, of course it does. Some of the figures bounded about in the press of reported salaries are enough to make your eyes water. It doesn’t take a genius to bring up Carlos Tevez and his reported wages to argue the case that foreign imports to China are nothing more than mercenaries, especially after the Argentine essentially used his stay in the CSL as a holiday whilst putting in some less than average displays and then mocking the league on his departure.

Less reported of course is the other side of the story. Why do players actually move to China if it’s not for money? It’s a good question to ask.

Paulinho is the best example any Chinese football fan could give. He had an amazing World Cup with Brazil and is signed by Tottenham Hotspur and at first looked the part. After a while you could tell quite obviously the game was too quick for him, his form dropped dramatically and he never looked like turning it around. Then along comes the offer from Guangzhou Evergrande, once the move was confirmed of course every media outlet in England mocked Paulinho labelling him a failure, look how wrong they were. After winning the CSL in every season he played for Guangzhou and becoming unquestionably their star player a €40 million move to Barcelona came, where he is a regular starter and looks to be winning the league with ease in his first season.

My honest belief is it isn’t just the money and no, I’m not naive. As Jonathan Viera said before signing for Beijing Guoan ‘’the club have made me an offer that would take care of my grandchildren’’ how could anyone not be persuaded to consider it? Take in to account also, the culture. China is a mega power of a country, one of the worlds biggest. It boasts incredible cities such as Beijing and Shanghai and of course the ample tourist attractions to visit but it offers so much more.

Despite what you may read in the press, most recently courtesy of the Daily Mail ‘’one fan comes to greet Jose Fonte as he arrives in China’’ China has got a fan culture and it is growing. You only need to do a quick search on Twitter to see what could be described as Ultra type fan groups at games, doing everything they can to generate an atmosphere and succeeding at that. Even after their team we’re no doubt embarrassed 8-0 away from home 8-0 by Shanghai SIPG what greeted the Dalian Yifang team as they arrived home? A huge group of fans chanting and cheering the players names.

The Chinese Football Association have clamped down on over spending by league clubs, they don’t want the bubble to burst or as it was put across in a statement given at the time they are ‘’addressing irrational investments’’. Clubs in China now need to be smarter, a limit on foreign imports plus a tax meaning whatever spent on foreign players must also be given to the CFA is making clubs wise up.

Chinese football is on the up. China & the Chinese Super League in particular is not a retirement league, it’s not just a place for players to show case a minor bit of talent then waltz off with a fat pay cheque. China is doing all it can, with substantial financial investments at grassroots level to be a footballing powerhouse. As a foreign player to be given the opportunity to make a great financial gain, to experience a new type of living and football culture and to be able to in many parts help the Chinese players succeed with gain more footballing knowledge and experience, I think for life experience alone it is almost certainly worth the gamble.

I guess the one main question that might even be worth asking these ‘’journalists’’ who bore me and many others to tears with their nothing but negative articles on the CSL is, if they were offered the same job, new culture, a much bigger salary and the chance to become somewhat of an idol, I think you’d get a rather obvious answer from the majority.