3 Africans lighting up the Chinese Super League

In recent years, players have been moving to the Chinese Super League mostly to wind down their careers. The Chinese have invested billions of dollars into their football project to make it attractive for players. At first, the older players from Europe, the likes of Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka fit the profiles of the footballers who switched continents and understandably so. However, Oscar’s move from Chelsea to Shanghai SIPG at the age of 24 sparked a movement that not many had predicted. Many younger players have since moved to Asia to play in front of the Chinese fans in exchange for a bigger cheque. In this piece, we focus our attentions to the three best African players who have been lighting up the Chinese Super League this year.

Odion Ighalo

Nicolas Otamendi of Argentina slides in to tackle Odion Ighalo of Nigeria during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia group D match between Nigeria and Argentina at Saint Petersburg Stadium on June 26, 2018 in Saint Petersburg, Russia.  (June 25, 2018 - Source: Gabriel Rossi/Getty Images Europe)

Nicolas Otamendi of Argentina slides in to tackle Odion Ighalo of Nigeria during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia group D match between Nigeria and Argentina at Saint Petersburg Stadium on June 26, 2018 in Saint Petersburg, Russia.

(June 25, 2018 - Source: Gabriel Rossi/Getty Images Europe)

Odion Ighalo is first up on the list of the on-form players. The Nigerian international has been potent in front of goal, scoring a total of 21 goals and providing a single assist in just 28 matches. These are Thierry Henry-like stats that the Nigerian is achieving in the Chinese Super League. It is delightful to see the Nigerian regain his confidence in front of goal after a dreadful World Cup outing where he was not his usual self as he fluffed a lot of chances. Ighalo was heavily criticised in the aftermath of the tourney and must have used this criticism to boost his adrenaline and push harder for his club. He has been nothing short of exciting as he has been firing on all cylinders for Changchun Yatai in the Chinese Super League. His goals however, do not reflect the performance of the rest of the team as the club currently ended the season in the 15th position on the table. The defence let in quite a number of goals in the 29 matches they have played this season which has resulted in their automatic relegation to the second division for next season. Rest assured, if they sort out the defence and Odion Ighalo keeps on scoring like he drinks water, his club will be back in the Chinese Super League calendar in no time.

Cedric Bakambu

Then there is Cedric Bakambu who plays for Beijing Guoan. Bakambu has also scored 21 goals and created 4 goals for his teammates in 23 Chinese Super League fixtures. The player switched leagues to the CSL from Spanish side, Villarreal in a then record transfer for an African player early this year. The Congolese forward is predominantly deployed in the attacking midfield roles for his club where he is causing a lot of damage from the middle. The 27 year old is influencing the games in the Chinese Super League like the way how Lionel Messi bosses the Spanish La Liga with his freedom to roam all over the pitch finding pockets of spaces to exploit. The Asians are fortunate to have the forward in his prime after a number of clubs in Europe sought after his talents in January 2018 before he made the decision to follow in the footsteps of an African legend in Didier Drogba who also moved to China after his time in Europe.

The 27 year old is influencing the games in the Chinese Super League like the way how Lionel Messi bosses the Spanish La Liga with his freedom to roam all over the pitch finding pockets of spaces to exploit.
— Tinotenda Magiya, FirstTouch Africa

Ayub Timbe

Cedric Bakambu of Villarreal celebrates scoring his team's first goal during the UEFA Europa League Quarter Final first leg match between Villarreal CF and Sparta Prague at El Madrigal on April 7, 2016 in Villarreal, Spain.  (April 6, 2016 - Source: Manuel Queimadelos Alonso/Getty Images Europe)

Cedric Bakambu of Villarreal celebrates scoring his team's first goal during the UEFA Europa League Quarter Final first leg match between Villarreal CF and Sparta Prague at El Madrigal on April 7, 2016 in Villarreal, Spain.

(April 6, 2016 - Source: Manuel Queimadelos Alonso/Getty Images Europe)

Kenyan forward, Ayub Timbe makes up the list of the three best African players who took the Chinese Super League by storm this season. The centre-forward was recalled from loan by his parent club Beijing Renhe to help them extend their unbeaten run between July and August. Ayub Timbe scored 7 goals and provided 3 assists for his teammates as he helped his team to an 8th place finish in the league. The 26-year old deserves some credit for his heroics in the CSL considering the returns he has given his club which surpasses that of other forwards who played more than double the matches he played in. In Timbe, Kenya have another soccer player who is raising the Kenyan colours high alongside Victor Wanyama at Tottenham and Michael Olunga in the Japanese League.  

That’s it for the top African players in the Chinese Super League. Follow them on their journey as they lift the African flag high in a league that is improving year on year.