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5 players who moved to the Chinese Super League at the wrong time

Oscar left Chelsea for China in 2017
Oscar left Chelsea for China in 2017
Akshay Tahiliani

The Chinese Super League is a beast that burns dollars for fun. They have a habit of snatching talent off the radar of some of Europe's top clubs. Over the years, the Chinese Super League has lured several high-profile names from European football.

Chinese Super League sides often dish out lucrative contracts

Due to the financial firepower of the Chinese Super League, several renowned players from Europe have migrated to the country to play football.. Every year there are at least a couple of signings that bring the Chinese Super League under the spotlight. Though for some it makes for the ideal retirement destination, there are some who move there purely for monetary benefits.

On that note, let's take a closer look at the five players who joined the Chinese Super League at the wrong time of their careers:


#5 Alex Teixeira to Jiangsu Suning

Alex Teixeira currently plays for Turkish club Beşiktaş
Alex Teixeira currently plays for Turkish club Beşiktaş

The first of the five big coups on this list, Alex Teixeira moved to the Chinese Super League when Jiangsu Suning came looking for him. After playing at the youth level in Brazil, Teixeira's first steps in European football were at Shakhtar Donetsk.

The Ukrainian club have a habit of nurturing promising unknown talent and turning them into renowned and reliable players before making a good profit from their sales. The other Brazilians who were a result of Shakhtar's strategy were Fernandinho, Douglas Costa and Willian.

Beşiktaş Taraftarının Alex Teixeira İçin Yaptığı Pankart. https://t.co/ttceS8h2nw

Teixeira has long been admired by managers at big clubs. Jurgen Klopp was one of the first to recognize him and his ability and the German manager wished to bring him to Anfield. In 2016, the Reds reportedly submitted a bid, which was bettered by the Chinese League club, who eventually snapped him up.

Ironically, it was Jiangsu Suning's financial problems due to which they had to allow Teixeira to leave as a free agent earlier this year. He made a total of 153 appearances during his five-year stay in China and produced a substantial return of 73 goals across all competitions.


#4 Marouane Fellaini to Shandong Luneng

Fellaini is still enjoying life in China
Fellaini is still enjoying life in China

Marouane Fellaini was one of the first big names to arrive at Man United after the rebuild began post Sir Alex Ferguson's coveted era. He represented the Red Devils for a period of five-and-a-half years, starting in 2013.

Earlier, the Belgian midfielder had impressed at Everton, where he made 141 appearances and notched up 39 goal contributions, which saw him earn a switch to Old Trafford.

On his day, a peak Fellaini would run past any midfield quite effortlessly. But even though the talent was visible, fans kept demanding those displays, which were few and far between, on a consistent basis. Eventually, all love was lost and Fellaini left Manchester United in 2019 for a move to Chinese Super League side Shandong Luneng..

Fellaini's move to Shandong Luneng also saw him compromise his position in the pecking order for the Belgian national team.

Barcelona has officially entered their Fellaini era. Sub on Luuk de Jong and cross, cross, cross. #KoemanOut #Barcelona https://t.co/RHWS5PLuHr

This is quite evident because despite being prolific in the Chinese Super League with his 21 goals in 54 appearances, he last played for Belgium in 2018. Now 36, Fellaini is unlikely to make a comeback to Europe, especially considering how well he has settled in China. The former Manchester United star has already netted nine goals in 14 league games this season.

#3 Axel Witsel to Tianjin Quanjian

Witsel now plays for Dortmund in the Bundesliga
Witsel now plays for Dortmund in the Bundesliga

Before he moved to Tianjin Quanjian in the Chinese Super League, Axel Witsel played in the Russian Premier League for Zenit. The Belgian surely followed an interesting trajectory while switching clubs.

Witsel started out at Standard Liege as a 17-year-old and moved to Benfica after impressing in Belgium. Thereafter he went to the Russian side Zenit and then to Tianjin Quanijan, who were just promoted to the first division. Safe to say, it was not the most progressive ladder to climb as far as the hierarchy of club football is concerned.

Juventus were interested in Axel Witsel in the final days of last window. Borussia Dortmund CEO Watzke: “New contract for Witsel? If we have the feeling, that he plays a good season and feels fit… then I do not see any issue in there”. 🟡 @bvbnewsblog #BVB

The midfielder's contract was about to run out in six months and he decided to cash in on himself by going to China. Juventus reportedly came very close to signing Witsel but the Belgian wasn't sure if it was the right time to move. He completed his move to Tianjin Quanjian a year later, where he was reportedly earning a sum of £15.3 million annually.

The 32-year-old made a return to European football with what is now arguably the biggest club on his CV, Borussia Dortmund, in 2018. Witsel's brief stay lasted a year and a half in the Chinese Super League, where he also scored the newly promoted side's first goal in the top-flight. During the spell, Witsel registered six goals and four assists in all competitions for Tianjin Quanijan.


#2 Yannick Carrasco to Dalian Yifang

Carrasco has earned 51 caps for Belgium at sneior level
Carrasco has earned 51 caps for Belgium at sneior level

Yannick Carrasco suggested that one of the motives to move to China was in fact for the development of the game in the Asian country. He wished to uplift the quality of the Chinese Super League, along with other European stars like Axel Witsel, Oscar, Hulk and fellow Atletico Madrid team-mate Nicolas Gaitan.

The Belgian is one of the few players who, after leaving for the Chinese Super League, could make it back to the top level of European football. He returned to Atletico, where he had a three-year spell prior to his move to the Chinese Super League, initially on loan in 2020 before making the move permanent.

At Dalian Yifang, he shone the brightest among the various other European players, netting 24 goals and assisting another 17 from 52 appearances across all competitions.

In his second spell with Los Rojiblancos, Carrasco won the La Liga trophy last season and has so far made 60 appearances at the time of writing. Despite him fitting in like a glove at Atletico after returning from the Chinese Super League, it is still an undeniable fact that he probably should've never left anyway.


#1 Oscar to Shanghai SIPG

Oscar is the highest earner in the Chinese Super League
Oscar is the highest earner in the Chinese Super League

It's always disappointing when the change in managers and the philosophy at a football club leads to the axing of cherished talents. Oscar's big-money move to the Chinese Super League occurred in somewhat similar circumstances. Oscar wrapped up his four-and-a-half-year stay at Chelsea after Antonio Conte replaced Jose Mourinho at Stamford Bridge.

The Italian preferred a 3-4-3 system, which did not demand an attacking No.10 at all points. As a result, Oscar had gone almost three months without any first team action and decided to call it quits at Chelsea. The transfer made Oscar the most expensive player in the Chinese Super League.

Oscar wasn't a world class player at Chelsea but for sure he was underrated.. - 16 goal contributions in the Champions league - 45 goal contributions in the Premier League - Won 2 PL's, the Europa League & League cup Oscar dos Santos Emboaba Júnior.. 💙 https://t.co/GzTF7aOooF

Oscar admitted at the time of the move he was approached by clubs like Atletico Madrid, AC Milan and Juventus, all promising him significant roles in their squad. However, the offer from China was too good to be refused and the Brazilian preferred it and the financial security to his family that came with it.

The Brazilian, when signed by the Chinese Super League side, pipped fellow countryman Hulk, who earned £317,000 per week in wages. He became the highest paid player in the league by earning a reported £400,000 a week.

Aged 30, Oscar has now entered his fourth year in China, which explains how early he decided to call time on what could have been a fulfilling career in Europe.

Edited by Nived Zenith

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