With lanterns adorning streets, fireworks crackling and dragon costumes creating quite the spectacle, the atmospheric events of Chinese New Year got Coral writers contemplating the East Asian nation’s eager ambition to become a football superpower.
It is no secret that China has been targeting and tapping into the
global football market for investment, and rivaling the MLS to lure big
name stars at the end of their careers for the past few years. Yet, the
ever-improving Chinese Super League hit headlines again in the January
transfer window by pinching players based in Europe but still in their
Powerful midfielders Fredy Guarin, Ramires and Stephane Mbia,
formerly of Inter Milan, Chelsea and Trabzonspor respectively, plus
ex-Roma and Arsenal attacker Gervinho, Liverpool target Alex Teixeira
and Colombia international Jackson Martinez are the latest to make the
lucrative trek to East Asia. While, rumours have even tipped Manchester
United and England captain Wayne Rooney as a target in summer.
With that in mind, and to help customers celebrate the arrival of
Year of the Monkey, we rate stints from superstar players to have
already taken part in the footballing rise of the Red Dragon…
Read on to find out what happened to some familiar faces and fan favourites!
Nicolas Anelka – miss
Shanghai Greenland Shenhua snapped up ‘Le Sulk’ from Champions League big-guns Chelsea (20/1 with Coral to win the Champions League) back in 2012 and the feisty French forward scored just 40 seconds in to his first appearance in a pre-season friendly.
Though Anelka’s initial form was not to continue, with injuries and
reports of a fan bust-up for refusing to bow seeing a return of just
four goals in 27 outings. For a mooted salary of around £9.12m per year,
that certainly counts as a miss, and the mercurial marksman was farmed
out on loan to Juventus before being released on a free transfer.
See Anelka’s Shanghai highlights below:
Demba Ba – hit
Former Chelsea, Newcastle United and Besiktas frontman Ba was much more
of a surprise switch in 2015, given he was still cutting it on the
Yet the Senegal striker, famous for ending Liverpool’s Premier League
title hopes when pouncing on Steven Gerard’s slip, has not suffered in
his Oriental adventure so far. Potent in both the Super League and
Chinese FA Cup for Shanghai Shenhua, Ba has prospered where Anelka
failed with 12 goals in 16 games.
Watch Ba bang them in:
Lucas Barrios – miss
Argentine-born Paraguay poacher Barrios is known as ‘the panther’ for a
reason, becoming a prolific Bundesliga scorer for German giants Borussia
As a Chinese Super League winner with Guangzhou Evergrande, it is
tough to label Barrios’ stint a miss. However, despite his predatory
pedigree, the South American striker failed to settle, scoring 17 in 32
across all competitions but also being excluded from squads and
regularly used as a substitute, before leaving after just two terms. He
now plies his trade with Brazilian side Palmeiras.
Barrios’ efforts in China:
Tim Cahill – hit
All-round action man, and former Australia and Everton icon, Cahill has
hit the ground running after swapping New York Red Bulls for Shanghai
Shenhua in 2015. The on-field leader has no doubt treated fans to many a
corner flag punch after striking 12 times in 32 appearances across all
Cahill skill on show in Shanghai:
Didier Drogba – miss
Chelsea legend Drogba was yet another Blues boy to join Shanghai
Shenhua, following in the footsteps of Anelka, but played just 11 games
for the Blue Devils (also known as the Flower of Shanghai), with a
reported contract and wage dispute seeing the talismanic striker join
Galatasaray, and then return to win another Premier League title at
Stamford Bridge. The Ivorian did score eight in that brief stint, but
was merely a ship passing through Shanghai waters.
Eidur Gudjohnsen – miss
Everyone’s favourite Icelandic attacker Gudjohnsen has never been known
as prolific and, at age 37, it is tough to expect much from the skillful
Nordic star, even in China. Yet there is little doubt club Shijiazhuang
Ever Bright will have expected more than one in 14 from Iceland’s
all-time top scorer, especially one who wore the colours of Barcelona
Frederic Kanoute – hit
Famous for stints with West Ham United and Tottenham, Kanoute swapped
Sevilla for Beijing Guoan in 2012, with China his last stop before
retirement. Though, the forward finished on a rather quiet note in Asia,
with just 13 from 46 in the green of the Imperial Guards, who play at
the Workers Stadium in China’s bustling capital. His skill was still on
show for all to see, however.
Paulinho – hit
After a troubled time with Tottenham, Brazil midfield engine Paulinho
was another to jump ship to Evergrande and follow ‘Big Phil’ Luiz Felipe
Scolari to China in 2015.
The midfield dynamo’s move seems to have worked out well, with five
goals in 22 appearances so far, and crucial contributions such as
strikes in the AFC Champions League knock-out stage (which the club went
on to win) and FIFA Club World Cup quarter-finals, plus a Super League
medal to add to his collection.
Robinho – miss
Having already taken his inconsistent but occasionally brilliant talents
to and from Santos, Real Madrid, Manchester City and AC Milan, it
seemed only natural that the former Brazil prodigy follow compatriot and
ex-coach Scolari to China and Evergrande.
The Samba flair star scored three in nine as the Southern China
Tigers won the Super League but ended his contract before Christmas and
is currently clubless and in limbo (thouhg linked to another Santos
return), which is no doubt a disappointment to Big Phil.
Yakubu Aiyegbeni – hit
Premier League cult hero Yakubu penned a deal with Southern China Tigers
city rivals Guangzhou R&F back in 2012, and was a similar striking
success in Asia, scoring 25 in 45. The Nigerian former Everton favourite
proved dangerous on his debut in the derby with Evergrande, bagging the
winner for the Blue Lions to end their 34 league game unbeaten home