The January transfer window was a rather understated affair to previous years gone by. No last minute huge deal, no club scrambling at the 11th hour to grab anybody they could to fill a void in the squad. Overall a very meek and mild month.
What was the most remarkable turn of events throughout the entire opening month of 2016 was the amount of top class players leaving huge European clubs and heading for China. Alex Teixeira is the latest superstar to follow Jackson Martinez and Ramires in the last month. Other players making their mark in Asia are: Gervinho, Demba Ba, Paulinho, Asamoah Gyan and Tim Cahill.
Tim Cahill is excused due to this being the twilight of his career, however for the rest the moves to Asia are puzzling – or a no brainer when considering their contracts. Chinese football broke their transfer record three times within a week with the three latest mega stars arriving in the Chinese Super League. What makes the moves of Martinez, Ramires and Teixeira different to those of Ba and Gervinho is that the former are genuine stars – Champions League winners, winners of their native league for five straight seasons and one of the most sought after forwards in world football.
A sad reality has dawned that players more than ever have a lazy attitude of money and easy success over playing in the best league and against the best players week in week out. Unless for a pre-season tour these players won’t be going head to head with Lionel Messi, Robert Lewendowski or Mesut Ozil – at least for now.
Not so long ago all players had a universal attitude of wanting to play with and against the best in the world’s best competitions. These three transfers showcase otherwise. Chinese clubs are now locked in an arms race to recruit some of the world’s finest talent, a battle which has now turned its attention to Chelsea captain John Terry as it has been announced he will not be offered a new deal to stay with the Blues.
The calibre of player leaving for China is astonishing considering that they could fit into many teams around the world – Arsenal are constantly after another forward, Liverpool chased Teixeira and Ramires – although often underappreciated – is incredibly clever and the engine room of any midfield. The Chinese Super League have exposed the vast amounts of money involved in the game and have courted these players with huge contracts, bonuses and no doubt various other financial perks to tempt them to what is still a substandard league compared to that from which they all came from.
Jurgen Klopp said he respected Teixeira’s decision but it has to be a bitter pill to swallow for Liverpool – outmuscled by a club in Jiangsu Suning who only turned professional 22 years ago. Ten years ago a scenario like this would have been unheard of – a top, historical English club beaten to a player by way of a club with huge resources but is not respected in football terms. The former Shakhtar Donetsk player described the offer from Liverpool as ‘windy’ – a vague and unsatisfying explanation. Liverpool were only three million away from the asking price and could very well have shot themselves in the foot with their reluctance to part with it.
Players have always wanted to make a lot of money – as much of it as possible that has never been a secret. The most important thing to a player however, was to always play with and against the best players possible in the best league possible. The big pull of each of Europe’s biggest leagues in their big clubs with a lot of history and world class players. If a player plays on a consistent basis and shows their worth then the riches will follow. Cristiano Ronaldo, Eden Hazard, Mesut Ozil to name a few are testament to that.
Martinez – although only finding the net three times for Atletico Madrid, still possesses huge quality and his record at previous club Porto is nothing to be taken lightly – 67 goals in 90 appearances. Now at 29-years-old the Colombian forward has placed his career in a tricky position, should he ever want to leave China many clubs will find it tough to match his wages as well as the fee his club will probably demand. Martinez is a player who has featured in matches of the highest caliber to take a huge step down after a failed spell at Atletico seems a defeatist attitude. China does not seem the place to revitalize his career and reputation if that was the plan – beating goalkeepers of maybe League One caliber at best. Strikers with his type of record do not come on the market often, there would have been a long queue of clubs, perhaps not as big as Atletico but still reputable enough to see Martinez stay relevant in the football stratosphere.
It seems more now than ever players have an attitude of simply chasing the large wage slips. The Premier League has recently come in danger of losing out on players to La Liga, Bundasliga, and even Ligue One with PSG’s riches – However all of those leagues and teams have a certain amount of credibility within the football pyramid. For teams to lose out on players to the Chinese Super League shows that there is no longer room for Premier League teams to play hardball when it comes to negotiating fees and wages. History and club stature is starting to count for very little in this money fuelled game. Although Ramires, Martinez and Teixeira will earn sums beyond what many world class players in Europe will they have all but cast their name into football irrelevance.