Earlier this week, we learned Ramires has joined Jiang Suning for a massive £25m. While the 28-year-old Brazilian impressed many during his time with the Blues, he has only started in seven fixtures this season.
Ramires joins a long list of his international team-mates who currently play in China, and will be the 24th Brazilian international in the Super League. This list includes Paulinho, Fernandinho and Renato Augusto, among many others. Last week it looked as if Brazilian striker Luiz Adriano would be joining Jiang Suning, too, but talks fell through after contract complications arose.
It’s not just Brazilian talent that the Chinese are attracting. Over the past couple of years the Super League has lured Europe’s top talent to their wealthy clubs. Demba Ba, Paulinho, Mohammad Sissoko and Alessandro Diamanti all left for China straight from Europe’s elite leagues.
Even ex-Arsenal man Gervinho has joined the party, signing for Hebei China Fortune from Roma for roughly £14m. The 28-year-old Ivorian scored 17 goals with Roma in his stay with the Italian club, including netting six in the 14 fixtures he’s played this season.
Even some of football’s top managers have made the move to China. Felipe Scolari, Mano Menezes, Alberto Zaccheroni, Gregorio Manzano and Vanderlei Luxemburgo have all gone to the Far East. Familiar face Sven-Goran Eriksson leads Shanghai SIPG and has recently noted that he plans to make attempts to sign the likes of Wayne Rooney and John Obi-Mikel. Eriksson has already signed the likes of Ba and Asamoah Gyan. Gyan, who earns around £247,000 a week, is now one of the world’s highest paid footballers earning wages similar to those picked up by Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
If the Shanghai side can afford to put Gyan as one of the world’s highest players, it’s crazy to think what they would be willing to pay Europe’s top players like Rooney. Much of this money comes from the multi-billion dollar corporations that own a host of the teams and it doesn’t appear that the spending will stop any time soon. China is determined to see the growth of their league and they have even seen a rise in advertising sales and attendance since the large spending has started. One has to wonder will this be a fad or is China one of the next competitive leagues? Will they be able to retain these players for long-term spells in China?
The Super League saw former Chelsea strikers Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka make moves in 2012, only to see them back in Europe at their first chance. It is important to note that Drogba went back to Europe before his contract expired because he claimed that he was not actually receiving the money he was promised.
While much of the attention on emerging leagues and spending has focused on Major League Soccer in the United States, you can’t ignore the wealth the Chinese clubs have and the star power they are currently attracting and targeting. While the skill level of their current superstars is not necessarily among the world’s elite and they may be overpaying for players, the Super League’s recent signings show that they are not shy about opening up the chequebook to make their league more attractive. It will be interesting to see if wealth can be more attractive to players than the opportunity to play in historically competitive European leagues.