In the space of just a single month, the Chinese Super League has emerged from almost complete anonymity to become the beautiful game’s go-to top flight outside of Europe.
The CSL has smashed its record transfer fee three times and broken the £200million spending barrier during the current transfer window as a host of high-profile names jump ship to the Far East, not least including former Arsenal star Gervinho, Inter Milan midfielder Fredy Guarin, PSG winger-forward Ezequiel Lavezzi, West Ham’s Nikica Jelavic, Chelsea enforcer Ramires, Atletico Madrid frontman Jackson Martinez and Shakhtar Donetsk attacker Alex Teixeira.
With the Chinese government intent on making their country a footballing super-power and eventual hosts of the World Cup, the lavish spending isn’t showing any sign of letting up. We might not see many more deals before the window slams shut in two days’ time, but China’s top clubs will undoubtedly come calling again during the summer when players are more likely to move.
So with that in mind, which Premier League stars could end up in the CSL by the time next season comes around? Chelsea and Man United captains John Terry and Waye Rooney aren’t so keen according to the tabloids, but these TEN might be.
No Premier League star enjoys a payday more than Emmanuel Adebayor, whose wages are still being subsidised by Tottenham Hotspur, so I’m sure the Crystal Palace frontman is already dreaming about a move to the Chinese Super League.
The Togo international may have signed for the Eagles less than a month ago but his contract expires in the summer and another deal in the Premier League seems incredibly unlikely. Now past his best at 31 years of age and having jibbed off Europe’s elite with his mercurial antics, the Far East is calling.
Aussie enforcer Mile Jedinak may be feeling a little homesick at Crystal Palace now he’s not a guaranteed member of Alan Pardew’s starting XI. China may not be Australia, but it’s at least in the same ocean.
Indeed, despite his captain status, Jedinak has started just six times in the Premier League this season as the Eagles engine room moves in a less attritional direction.
Likewise, now aged 31 with his contract into its final 16 months, neither Palace nor Jedinak are likely to receive better offers for his services than from the CSL this summer. A move to the Far East has already been speculated in the tabloids.
The Chinese Super League has actively targeted South American players and one who might interest them is Jefferson Montero. The Swansea City winger is still in his prime and a key player for the Ecuador national team, so he could really boost the CSL’s profile in that region.
Likewise, despite occasional displays of brilliance, the 26-year-old hasn’t really lived up to expectations since moving to the Liberty Stadium. With two years remaining on his current deal, offloading to China this summer will likely see the Welsh outfit get their money back.
With his City career likely to be ended by Pep Guardiola’s summer arrival, Yaya Toure has already been tipped for a move to China.
The Ivory Coast international likes his lucrative paycheques – and his birthday cakes – a lot more than he enjoys running, so the CSL seems like a pretty good fit for a player who probably won’t be able to join another top European club at nearly 33 years of age.
The sheer thought of Peter Crouch plying his trade in the Chinese Super League is so hilarious that he had to be included in this list.
But there is some logic to the notion as well. The 6 foot 7 striker’s England career is over, his importance at Stoke City has steadily declined under Mark Hughes – managing just one Premier League start this season – and he’s now 35 years of age.
It’s either the Chinese Super League, the Championship or retirement for the former Liverpool and Spurs striker come next season. One of those options pays considerably more than the other two.
Another old pro tipped for a last hurrah in the Far East, Michael Carrick’s Old Trafford contract expires in the summer and a number of Chinese clubs have reportedly expressed an interest.
He doesn’t quite fit the profile of their signings thus far; he doesn’t have a huge media presence and he’s only got a few years left in the tank. Nonetheless, the England international is a vastly talented, vastly experienced player famed for his professionalism, who would help improve any Super League side.
Juan Cuadrado could find himself stuck in transfer limbo this summer, with a return to parent club Chelsea unlikely and Juventus unwilling to meet the west London outfit’s valuation for a permanent deal.
No doubt, a number of European clubs would be interested in the Colombian international as well; he’s still 27 years of age and despite struggling to impress for the Blues, has always performed well in Serie A.
But Chelsea have already offloaded one star to the Chinese top flight and the Far East represents the club’s best chance of recouping their original £23.5million investment. Likewise, the CSL seem to favour players from South America.
Papiss Cisse is a handy goalscorer, netting 36 times in 104 appearances for an underwhelming Newcastle side, but he’s also incredibly inconsistent and at least over the last few seasons, has struggled with recurring injury problems.
Now 30 years of age and not exactly a regular for Senegal, the mercurial striker would probably be interested in a Far East payout. Likewise, Magpies owner Mike Ashley has never been one to turn his nose up at a half-decent transfer fee.
Samir Nasri’s managed more haircuts than appearances for Man City this season and could find himself completely overlooked when Pep Guardiola comes to town with his own batch of signings in the summer.
Injury-plagued and already retired from international football, a lucrative move to China could really appeal to the Frenchman, whilst City will be glad to recoup some of their £25million investment for a player who never exactly uprooted trees at the Etihad.
That being said, Nasri is a talented player and still has plenty of years ahead of him at 27.
Seemingly destined for a move to the Far East, Mario Balotelli may as well get Chinese Super League tattooed onto his face – which probably still wouldn’t be the silliest thing the infamously enigmatic Liverpool flop has ever done.
Indeed, loan club AC Milan don’t want to sign him permanently, having failing to find the net in open play this season, and the Reds don’t want their £16million signing back either, so the CSL represents Liverpool’s best chance of getting their money back.
Relatively young at 25 years of age and boasting an enormous media profile, Balotelli would be a real coup for the Chinese game.