Is China becoming a Dream Destination for African Footballers?


The Chinese Super League has become notorious for snatching big name players under the very noses of the most established clubs. What does this all mean? Are witnessing a revolution in professional football? Should we start picking our favorite teams in the CSL and wear their t-shirts? Honestly, why China? Let us see how my mind tries to answer this question in the next few lines.

A fortnight ago, Cedric Bakambu became the most expensive African player in history after completing his move to Beijing Guaon from the La Liga’s yellow submarine, Villarreal. The Chinese side forked out 65 million pounds eclipsing the 35 million pounds that Liverpool paid for Mohamed Salah or what they might pay for Naby Keita in the summer. The DRC forward is not the typical, aging player wrapping up his career in Asia, he is well in his prime at the age of 26. Even though he had attracted interest from a host of other European giants after rubbing shoulders with Lionel Messi in the scoring charts, he opted for the Chinese club. It is not only Cedric, there are many more.

In the same period, we also witnessed Cameroonian captain, Benjamin Moukandjo switching one CSL club for another and Ghanaian Richmond Boakye joining Coach Fabio Capello at Jiangsu Suning. Honestly, it is mainly because these Chinese sides have become the highest bidders in their spending spree to attract big names to boost the support for the local game. The Nigerian international, Odion Ighalo shared in an interview with Sky Sports that EPL side Watford released him to Changchun Yatai F.C because they were prepared to pay more. Even, the Belgium midfielder, Alex Witsel at 20 years of age, turned down Juventus for Tianjin Quanjian revealing that the Chinese side presented a more lucrative offer for his family.

Other African players who switched to China include Ivory Coast captain, Gervinho, Demba Ba, Asamoah Gyan, Didier Drogba, Stephane Mbia, Nigeria’s John Obi Mikel, Barcelona’s Seydou Keita, Obafemi Martins only to mention but a few. These players have also mingled with talent from other regions in the form of the Brazilian Oscar who moved from Chelsea to Shanghai SIPG, Hulk, Carlos Tevez, Ramires, Yannick Carrasco, Alexandre Pato and most recently Javier Mascherano who left Barcelona. These big money captures by Chinese clubs have undoubtedly justified the means by giving the league an image and its competitiveness will only increase.

The recent capture of Bakambu and the big money sell of Paulinho to Barcelona in the summer, who has been phenomenal for the Catalans by the way, continue to provide more evidence that the CSL can outbid any club and most importantly produce world-class players. More so because of the influence of great managers like Manuel Pellegrini, Fabio Capello and Fabio Cannavaro. The CSL may as well have become the top destination for any African player because of the prospects cash influx and career growth without being overshadowed by the likes of Messi and Ronaldo.

CSL runs from March to November every year and limits the number of foreign players to five per team, including a player from the Asian Football Confederation countries. We might all need to consider learning how to pronounce the CSL’s team names. They are here to stay.