With financial backers all over the world, it comes as no surprise that soccer players’ salaries have risen as well. While there is the occasional Paul Pogba who commanded a record-breaking salary and transfer fee from Manchester United, most top-flight footballers are paid well but within reasonable guidelines and constraints.
But the Chinese Super League, the top division of football in China, is a different story.
With a mandate from Chinese president Xi Jinping in 2014 to become the most dominant football powerhouse by 2050, the government has openly encouraged Chinese companies to invest heavily in the Super League in order to meet his mandate. Of course, in a country such as China, the lines of business and government are rather blurry, and this “encouragement” has resulted in a massive investment by large Chinese companies to various teams within the league.
While the past two years had seen a handful of European managers in China, the past several months have seen an extraordinary amount of cash being splashed in the direction of elite players in order to transfer them to the Super League. To the average fan it would seem that these players are either over-the-hill or surplus to requirements, but Chinese teams are pursuing these players with almost reckless abandon, and have already signed some of their targeted players.
Here are some of the more prominent players who have signed in the Super League, along with their compensation.
Carlos Tevez, Shanghai Shinhua- In 2010, Carlos Tevez made news by complaining about how football had become all about money after plying his trade amongst several top European teams. While approaching the age of 30, Carlito shunned the big payday in Europe and returned to his boyhood club of Boca Juniors in Buenos Aires. This was expected to be his final team before retirement-until the Chinese Super League presented him with an offer he couldn’t refuse. Maybe Tevez read these tips on training and conditioning, a resource that serves as a great guide for soccer players to stay in shape.
Whatever the reason, the 32 year-old Tevez signed a two-year deal that will pay him $79 million over two years, making him the highest-paid player in football. His former club did not walk away empty-handed either, with Boca Juniors pocketing a transfer fee of $11 million. While both player and former club would have to return a pro-rated amount of their payout should Tevez only last a year at Shanghai, the amount of money being splashed for a 32 year-old forward is jaw-dropping.
Oscar, Shanghai SIPG– The former Chelsea star, 25, cashed in on a massive payday with the Chinese Super League after falling out of favor with the Blues under manager Antonio Conte. Oscar will earn a weekly salary of $615,000, five-and-a-half times his former salary at Stamford Bridge.
His former club did not walk away empty-handed, however, with Chelsea being paid a team-record transfer fee of almost $74 million. But with his new salary easily dwarfing that of Lionel Messi and Gareth Bale, his new team clearly sees something in the Brazilian that the rest of football has missed.
Hulk, Shanghai SIPG- Having been signed in the prior transfer window, Hulk (real name Givanildo Viera de Sousa) became one of the richest footballers at the time with an annual salary of $21 million. The Brazilian’s former club team, Zenit St. Petersburg, agreed to the transfer for a fee of $59 million.
While most thought that the amount paid for a 30-year-old striker was excessive, apparently the pedigree of a Brazilian striker with 47 caps was a major draw for Shanghai. As long as Hulk’s left foot can still launch rockets towards goal, his payday in China will continue.
John Obi Mikel, Tianjin TEDA– After over ten years in a Chelsea uniform, the midfielder inked a three-year deal to earn a whopping $172,000 per week. Mikel, who hasn’t even made the bench at Stamford Bridge this season, was reportedly set to join Valencia this month. But the 29-year-old reportedly had a change of heart after a three-year deal from the Super League was put on the table.
Mikel will leave Chelsea a fan favorite having won three Premier League titles, two FA Cups, one Champions League and one Europa League title. But at 29 years of age, and with his best years of football likely behind him, a payday this huge would seem impossible for the Brazilian to pass up. While Chelsea parted ways with Mikel on a free transfer, they are in effect relieving themselves of paying him a salary for a surplus player.
Axel Witsel, Tianjan Quanjian– Once a rising star of the Belgium national team and more currently a Zenit St. Petersburg midfielder, Witsel was believed to be Juventus-bound in the current transfer window. Everton and Chelsea also showed interest, but the compensation emanating from the Chinese Super League was the final arbiter.
At $17 million per year for five years, no team would come close to matching that salary for the 28-year old midfielder. Zenit was paid a $21 million transfer fee, not too shabby a payday for the Russian team. While Witsel’s heart was with Juventus, he admitted that the money from Tianjan was too good to pass up. Well played, Axel.
While other European-based players are linked with Chinese Super League teams, the BBC reported on Friday that China’s chief governing body will announce plans to cap the spending by their clubs. While the specifics are still being worked out, a spokesperson for China’s General Administration of Sport complained that some Chinese clubs were “burning money.”
With the rumor mill buzzing with reports of other players being lured to China, certain players will continue to be targeted by teams, but the offers might be a tad less lucrative than the earlier ones.