China has become a mecca for footballers wanting to earn a large sum of money in a short time period. The latest transfer window has now shut for Chinese clubs and very late on, two high-profile players from the European game joined new boys Dalian Yifang from Atletico Madrid, in Yannick Carrasco and Nico Gaitan.
The pair moved to China for undisclosed fees. Both the players’ exits caused a stir amongst fans of European football, as both are highly-rated performers.
Despite the pairs exit, Atletico Madrid remain favourites to win the Europa League this season and are still in the race for the Spanish league title.
A couple of seasons ago Belgium international winger Yannick Carrasco was regarded as one of the brightest young talents in the European game. The 24-year-old moved to Atletico Madrid from Monaco back in 2015. At the time, the winger was hot property, with reportedly interest from the likes of Arsenal and AC Milan.
For Atletico to sign the star was something of a coup. Carrasco showed flashes of his brilliance with Los Rojiblancos, but never really managed to fulfil his potential. Carrasco still managed to score 17 La Liga goals in 81 appearances, two more in the same amount of appearances for Monaco.
Nico Gaitan is another player who in European football circles is well-regarded. The 30-year-old’s move to China is rather less surprising, due to the Argentinian age and experience.
Gaitan spent six highly successful years at Benfica before moving to Atletico Madrid back in 2016. He arrived as a player with a reputation for creating and scoring goals during his days in Portugal.
However, the Argentinian international playmaker never really hit the heights expected of him in the Spanish capital. He struggled to nail down a regular starting role in the Atleti team during his season and a half with the Spanish club.
Just the latest influx of ex-La Liga players
It seems La Liga has been a good provider of playing to Chinese clubs during the last transfer window. A number of other players joined Chinese Super League clubs from Spanish clubs.
Ironically, one of those other players to join a Chinese club from the Spanish game was another Atletico Madrid playmaker in Augusto Fernandez, who joined Beijing Rehne. Their city rivals Beijing Sinobo Guoan were also busy snapping up players from Spain, as striker Cedric Bakambu arrived from Villarreal and playmaker Jonathan Viera joined from Las Palmas. Both clubs wanted to keep the players, but the financial rewards were too great for clubs and players.
Probably one of the biggest moves of a player from Spanish club to the Chinese Super League was that of Argentinian international Javier Mascherano from Catalan giants Barcelona to Hebei China Fortune. The veteran star spent eight years at Barcelona, winning every club trophy on offer.
The Chinese Super League has flexed its financial muscle in the last few transfer windows. However, the league is still struggling to attract the top echelon of star. Until they can, then they will always be massively trailing behind the big European leagues.
Can the Chinese Super League ever become a worldwide brand?