What's with the Chinese football league?
There's something strange happening in the football world right now.
Even with all the money and appeal that the world's top leagues bring - the EPL, La Liga, Germany's Bundesliga, France's Ligue 1 and Italy's Serie A, some top players have recently departed their clubs and gone to accept enormous contracts in the Chinese Super League.
The latest star to make the move is Chelsea's Ramires, a player at the peak of his career at age 28. I'm stunned. There is a history of great players making the move to China, but in the past it has been players at the very tail end of their careers moving across the world to make huge amounts of money before they retire. Think Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka, who in recent years went to Shanghai to play.
And I understand the appeal for an aging player. Someone like Drogba couldn't keep up with the pace of the top European leagues anymore, but could still be a huge star in China, where the league quality is extremely low. They are major marketing moves for the Chinese teams too, who can bring in world superstars to boost their image. But recently, the players making the move have not been aging stars. They are players in the prime of their careers, like Chelsea's Ramires.
Other players to recently make the move are Roma's Gervinho (formerly of Arsenal), who is just 28 years old and Colombia and Inter Milan's Freddy Guarin, a young midfielder of enormous quality and potential. He has been on the radar of the top EPL clubs for years, and to see him turn them down in exchange for a move to the low-level China league is shocking.
Alessandro Diamanti, Momo Sissokho, Demba Ba and Paulinho are other players who have recently moved from their European clubs to play in China under huge contracts. It's a bizarre phenomenon. Football in China is not known to be a very popular sport, but the Chinese owners have loads of money and are doing a good job convincing top players to come and join them.
I'm sad to see exciting players like Ramires and Gervinho leave Europe, where I could watch them in the Champions League, but I'm fascinated to see what they will make of themselves in China, and to follow along to see if the Chinese league continues to pry away great talent from Europe.
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What do you make of this recent trend?