In the latter half of the 2010’s, the Chinese Super League helped football’s transfer market absolutely explode with record transfer sums and outrageous wages for the players.
It was all done with the idea of the Asian nation turning itself into a powerhouse of the sport but it seems like it is all starting to crumble.
Eight time Chinese Super League champions Guangzhou FC (formerly Guangzhou Evergrande) are reportedly in dire straits with their parent company Evergrande Real Estate Group on the verge of collapse.
Manager Fabio Cannavaro has resigned as manager of the club and nothing the club is now looking for a saviour as its finances become increasingly tight.
2020 champions Jiangsu Suning, former club of Socceroos defender Trent Sainsbury and former England manager Fabio Capello, announced earlier in the year that it was about to cease operations before being disqualified by the Chinese Football Association in March.
That followed its one time local rival Tianjin Tianhai also going bankrupt and dissolving in May 2020.
Other clubs have also come close to folding as well with Shandong Luneng expelled from the 2021 Asian Champions League for owing payments to players and Tianjin Teda flirting with collapse prior to the 2021 season before being reborn as Tianjin Jinmen.
This will probably be looked back on as one of the most unique periods in footballing history and we’ve compiled the top ten transfer fees Chinese clubs paid for players.
Oscar – Chelsea to Shanghai Port (SIPG) for $93.1m
Normally, Chelsea are the ones splashing the cash for a record transfer, but in this case they were on the receiving end of a hefty fee.
Having joined the London club for $38.8m in July 2012, Oscar spent four and a half seasons with Chelsea before opting for a change in scenery ahead of the January 2017 transfer window.
In his four seasons in China, Oscar has gone on to make 145 appearances and scored 45 goals with no sigs of heading back to Europe any time soon.
When you get greeted like this, it’s easy to see why he likes it there.
Either that or the reported $620,687 per week salary.
Hulk – Zenit St Petersburg to Shanghai Port (SIPG) for $86.6m
Oscar was not Shanghai’s first major foray into the transfer market, having signed Brazilian attacker (and one of the best names in all of sport) Hulk.
It was not his first club in Asia having joined Kawasaki Frontale from EC Vitoria in Japan and working his way around the J-League from 2005 to 2008 before enjoying very successful stints with Porto and Zenit.
In July 2016, with some of the biggest clubs in Europe possibly looking at signing him, Hulk instead opted to join Shanghai for what was at the time an Asian transfer record fee.
While his time in China came to an end in February 2021 when he returned to Brazil to play for Atletico Mineiro on a free transfer.
Alex Teixera – Shakhtar Donetsk to Jiangsu Suning for $77.58m
It’s a reasonable conclusion to draw that the Chinese Super League loves Brazilian players when the top four record transfers are all for players from the South American nation.
Alex Teixera is on the lookout for a new club at the moment after his employer Jiangsu Suning ceased operations having paid $77.58m for his services in February 2016.
He spurned an offer from Liverpool before opting to head to China, probably more for the money than anything else but he’s enjoyed his time there while the club was functioning.
There were some high points for Teixeira in his time with Jiangsu as the club won its first title in the 2020 Chinese Super League.
Paulinho – Barcelona to Guangzhou Evergrande for $65.17m
The Brazilian might have one of the most unique transfer histories in the world, having joined Guangzhou from Spurs after being labelled a Premier League flop.
Tottenham were happy to get anything for the midfielder and happily took the €14m fee offered for him in July 2015.
That’s just the first part of the story however with Paulinho joining Barcelona in July 2017 for a whopping $62.07m, spending 12 months with the Catalan club before being loaned back to China for six months.
The saga came to an eventual end when Guangzhou bought the player for €42m having already spent over $31m on the player through transfer and loan fees.
In terms of making a strong first impression, it’s hard to do much better than this stunning free kick.
Jackson Martinez – Atletico Madrid to Guangzhou Evergrande for $65.17m
Flash back to July 2015 and Colombian striker Jackson Martinez had a tough decision to make, several clubs were interested in signing him including Arsenal and Atletico Madrid.
He chose to join the Spanish side for $54.31m however his time in La Liga was short lived, playing just 22 matches in half a season.
With things not going to plan he had the chance to leave La Liga and join Arsenal, who were still interested in his services, but instead decided that signing for Chinese giants Guangzhou Evergrande was a better option than heading to North London.
He held the record for the biggest transfer for an Asian side for around 48 hours before Alex Teixeira broke that with his move.
It was not a happy spell in China as he suffered a major ankle injury that cost him two years and eventually saw Guangzhou terminate his contract after a pair of loan spells back in Portugal with Portimonense.
Martinez retired at the end of 2020.
Cedric Bakambu – Villareal to Beijing Guoan for $62.07m
Bakambu might be well known to FIFA and Football Manager players but for he might be the first name on this list you have to look up.
He’s a huge talent and was reportedly a target of Barcelona in the January 2020 transfer window, however the deal never came about and he returned to Beijing and was crowned the top scorer in the Chinese Super League last season.
Many were surprised when Beijing plucked him away from Villareal but he has certainly justified their investment to date.
At age 29 the Congolese forward could still have plenty to offer a European club should they try and capitalise on the instability in the Chinese Super League.
Yannick Carrasco – Atletico Madrid to Dalian Professional for $46.56m
Carrasco was one of Europe’s hottest prospects having starred for Monaco, Carrasco signed with Atletico Madrid in 2015.
The Belgian’s star continued to grow but his career took a massive turn when he was sold to recently promoted Dalian Professional, who coincidentally were owned by a group that also had a partial stake in Atletico Madrid.
52 appearances and 24 goals in China on, Carrasco was loaned back to Atletico Madrid in January 2020, before re-joining the Spanish side on a permanent deal in the offseason.
Safe to say he has not lost any of his dribbling ability.
Anthony Modeste – FC Koln to Tianjin Quanjian for $45m
French striker Anthony Modeste is another player to suffer from an ill fated move to China.
Having played for six clubs Modeste looked like he was settled during a two year spell at FC Koln, his second season produced an impressive return of 27 goals in 37 appearances
Then Tianjin came calling for the striker’s services with the clubs eventually agreeing to a two year loan with an option to buy at the end of the deal after some rather heated negotiations.
Modeste played in 29 matches across the 2017 and 2018 seasons, scoring 16 goals in that time and seeing the Chinese club pick up the option on his loan deal, signing him for the agreed upon fee.
That was about as good as it got for Modeste with the striker walking out just over a month later alleging unpaid wages before taking his dispute to FIFA.
It took three months for the matter to be resolved before Modeste rejoined Koln in November 2018.
Ramires – Chelsea to Jiangsu Suning for $43.45m
Brazilian midfielder Ramires was a fixture for Chelsea for the better part of half a decade and popped up with several key goals like this one.
Perhaps it was no surprise then that Jiangsu thought he would be a good addition to their side and managed to acquire him in January 2016.
Things got off to a good start with Ramires contributing for his new club all over the pitch.
Like a lot of pairings though, the honeymoon period came to an end in 2018 with Ramires wanting to leave the club and Jiangsu opting to hold him to the deal he signed.
After spending a year stuck in the reserve team Jiangsu finally released him from his deal which allowed him to return to his homeland, signing with Palmeiras.
Marko Aranautovic – West Ham to Shanghai Port (SIPG) for $38.8m
Shanghai Port really wanted Aranautovic going back for his signature six month after being initially rebuffed.
West Ham will perhaps feel like they should have taken the $62.77m on offer in January 2019, with the player’s family driving the move, however they instead re-affirmed their commitment to their Austrian attacker, signing him to a contract extension and giving him a pay rise.
Six months later Shanghai offered just $34.76m for the player before upping it to $40.19m which was accepted.
Honourable Mention: Carlos Tevez – Boca Juniors to Shanghai Shenua
Carlos Tevez did not fetch a huge transfer fee when he stunningly left Boca Juniors in Argentina to join Chinese powerhouse Shanghai Shenua.
The Super League club paid just $18.84m for his services in January 2017 but also gave him an astronomical wage of over $1.1m per week, or roughly 20 times what he was earning in Argentina.
It was not a productive spell in China with Tevez scoring just four goals in 20 appearances.
Aussie fans did get to see Tevez briefly during the Asian Champions League as they went down to Brisbane Roar in a qualifier.
Tevez returned to Boca Juniors on a free transfer in January 2018.