Why shouldn’t EPL players choose China?

January 16, 2017
Oscar arrives in China after agreeing to join Shanghai SIPG
The fear isn’t so much what the players themselves would be throwing away.

It is what England would be losing. It is what the English game would be deprived of if EPL’s top stars are spirited away.

Yet if the Chinese Super League has the cash with which to tempt our Premier League A-listers away, why shouldn’t the players take it?

So far, the ambitious clubs from that part of the world have been patronised with a kind of amusing fascination as they have thrown money at players whose best days we all know are behind them.

It’s as if, so far, we have known something they don’t. It has been okay for them to pinch the likes of Graziano Pelle and Ramires. Because a big player wouldn’t go from here there. The Chinese would know better than to waste their time coming for our big hitters.

Ramires arrives at Nanjing Lukou International Airport holding up a Jiangsu Suningon scarf
Ramires arrives at Nanjing Lukou International Airport holding up a Jiangsu Suningon scarf 

But they are coming. And they are not taking no for an answer. First they moved for Chelsea midfielder Ramires, who cashed out as part of a £25million deal 12 months ago.

Then Oscar, who couldn’t get a game under Antonio Conte. At £60million for Chelsea and £400,000-a-week for the player the offer was far too good to refuse.

There are similar wages on the table for Arsenal’s Alexis Sanchez, a deal that Arsenal could possibly compete with and a big part of the reason why they are struggling to agree a new contract with their prize asset.

And now the Chinese want Chelsea striker Diego Costa. The Premier League’s other joint-leading scorer. The league leaders’ blue-chip marksman whose goals have shot them back to the top.

Shandong Luneng Taishan FC have signed Italian ST Graziano Pellè from Southampton FC
Shandong Luneng Taishan FC have signed Italian ST Graziano Pellè from Southampton FC 

The exit of either Sanchez or Costa would change the game.

If they could tempt either away then surely no-one is safe. Costa’s exit would blow the title race wide open (even allowing for the fact that Chelsea have twice won impressively without him). The landscape would be changed completely.

There will, of course, always be those for whom even the world is not enough. Harry Kane has made it clear that neither he nor Dele Alli would be prepared to trade a possible title win under Mauricio Pochettino for some highly-paid action at half tilt in China.

But many will say yes. And why shouldn’t they?

Diego Costa remonstrates with Pedro
Diego Costa could be the next player to go 

Why should they not accept the vast, life-changing sums to kick a ball around on the other side of the world?

Why should they be brow-beaten into believing that they have thrown their careers away if they spend two years of it doing something that this country’s football fraternity regards as beneath them.

Given half the chance, most of the critics frowning on the likes of Oscar, Ramires and all the others warmly accepting the hand prepared to feed them would grab their passport without their feet touching the ground if they were made similar offers in their chosen field.

So why not players? Oscar, who will earn £400,000-a-week at Shanghai SIPG, gave an interview ahead of his switch to that club to insist his head had not “been turned” by the incredible pay packet on offer.

But so what if it was?

When it emerged he actually wanted to take the money and run his detractors slowly shook their heads and tut-tutted, declaring he’d given up on his career.

He is 25.

He could play out there for two years, come back and still – easily – make it into a top team here. The alternative for Oscar would have been another six months on the bench at Chelsea. Twelve if there was not a European club during the summer willing to get within anywhere near what Chelsea managed to get for him from China.

For all parties it was a transfer that worked.

Ditto Ramires, who couldn’t get into the Chelsea team under Guus Hiddink.

Alexis Sanchez celebrates scoring his team's fourth goal
Alexis Sanchez has also been offered crazy money to move to China

Pelle, at 31, is in the departure lounge of his career. No team in Europe would have given him even half of the £260,000-a-week he is on at Shandong Ludeng. A staggering £34m over two and a half years.

For these guys the dodgy pitches, the tales of corruption (let’s not kid ourselves that everything in the garden is rosy over here) and the the poor standard of play and officiating are a small price to pay.

We’ve all grown up on the romance that ALL players are driven by ambition and a burning desire to clinch silverware when they line up to kick off in the Premier League.

The truth is perhaps best articulated by these words, from the former Spurs defender Benoit Assou-Ekotto, which sum up the other section of top-flight stars for whom the game is business. A job they want to be as paid as well for as possible.

Former Spurs defender Benoit Assou-Ekotto said every player was doing it for the money 

“I don’t understand why everybody lies.” Assou-Ekotto said. “The president of my former club Lens, Gervais Martel, said I left because I got more money in England, that I didn’t care about the shirt.

“I said: ‘Is there one player in the world who signs for a club and says, Oh, I love your shirt?’ Your shirt is red. I love it. He doesn’t care. The first thing that you speak about is the money.

“Martel said I go to England for the money but why do players come to his club? Because they look nice? All people, everyone, when they go to a job, it’s for the money. So I don’t understand why, when I said I play for the money, people were shocked. Oh, he’s a mercenary. Every player is like that.

“If I play football with my friends back in France, I can love football.

“But if I come to England, where I knew nobody and I didn’t speak English … why did I come here? For a job. A career is only 10, 15 years. It’s only a job. Yes, it’s a good, good job and I don’t say that I hate football but it’s not my passion.

“I arrive in the morning at the training ground at 10.30 and I start to be professional. I finish at one o’clock and I don’t play football afterwards. When I am at work, I do my job 100 per cent. But after, I am like a tourist in London. I have my Oyster card and I take the tube. I eat.”

EDITED FROM: mirror.co.uk

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