It wasn’t too long ago that the Chinese Super League was unknown to football fans, especially around Europe.
However, after an influx in cash from Chinese Football Clubs, which decided to set out to dominate the global transfer market, some of the biggest stars made the move.
With the lure of a sweet lifestyle, bumper contracts beyond their dreams, and an adventure in the East, it became the trend.
This article looks at the most famous football players who switched from Europe’s Elite to China’s top and growing division.
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A move that caught plenty of Chelsea fans off guard was Brazilian midfielder Oscar’s switch from West London to Shanghai SIPG for a fee in the region of $60 million.
That was back in 2017 and, at the time, made him one of the highest transfers in history, not just to China.
Oscar was later questioned about this move, with him responding, by saying one of the factors in the move was supporting his family.
China’s strategy as a whole was to encourage even more of Europe’s best to make the bold move, which it certainly did at the time.
However, many players moved back after debts throughout the league, which amassed to $300 billion in 2021. Oscar is one of the only big names to remain despite this.
Shanghai SIPG broke the bank before Oscar, bringing Hulk from Russian club Zenit for a reported €55 million in 2016.
He quickly became one of the league’s main attractions, scoring bags of goals thanks to his blistering pace and sweet left foot that most people would say is one of the most powerful in the game.
However, as part of the Chinese league’s financial issues, Hulk was encouraged to leave, with him leaving to return back home to Atletico Miniero in Brazil.
Now 35, he is coming toward the latter end of his career, but his success over the past two seasons has made it clear he aint slowing down any time soon.
Now retired Carlos Tevez will go down as one of the best strikers of his time, with his terrifying clubs worldwide.
Tevez featured for both Manchester clubs, where he won titles at each, and played for Juventus, Boca Juniors, and Corinthians.
At the same time as Hulk, he made the move to China in 2016 he made the move while in his prime to Shanghai Shenhua.
Aside from the hype around the transfer, his time was uneventful, with him leaving just after one season.
However, that season might have been worth it for him, as he reportedly couped up a whopping €37 million.
Yannick Carrasco made the shock move swapping Spain for China to move to club Dalian Yifang, with him only three years ago before scoring in the Champions League final for Atletico Madrid.
Unsurprisingly, he tore the Chinese league up, with his pace and dribbling being far too much for most Chinese clubs to handle.
After collecting his paycheck, Carrasco decided to return to Atletico Madrid on what was initially a loan but is now a long-term contract until 2024.
For many, the move Ramires made will be seen as odd; in his prime and playing fantastic for Chelsea, he went to Jiangsu Suning for €28 million.
Now while he went on to make an impact after touching down in Brazil, it all started to fall apart from the third year and final year of his deal.
Not making a single appearance, he went back home to Brazil to play for Palmieras however parted ways just 17 months into his 4-year deal.
Ramires will always go down as a great player, nonetheless, thanks to his versatility and work ethic.
Adding to the Brazilians to make this list, we have 34-year-old Paulinho, who moved from Tottenham Hotspur to Guangzhou Evergrande.
A player who is excellent both in attack and defense, he succeeded in his 6-year contract in China.
Sandwiched in the middle of this China spell, Paulinho made another shock move, this time to Barcelona.
That was regarded at the time as a bad transfer by Barcelona’s standards. However, he went on to do really well, scoring 9 goals in 34 games under Ernesto Valverde.
I must admit when Ezequiel Lavezzi decided to join Hebei China Fortune in 2016. I was disappointed as, at the time, he was ripping it up in France for Paris St Germain.
After making 107 appearances in Paris, Lavezzi made the high-profile move to Hebei China Fortune, which garnered the interest of many fans.
Lavezzi went on to spend four seasons in China before calling quits on his career in 2019. It was his 2017 campaign that was his most prolific, where he netted 20 times in 27 games.
Jackson Martinez made a shock move to Guangzhou Evergrande from Atletico Madrid in 2016 for different reasons than others on this list.
Martinez was a revelation at FC Porto and deserved to earn his move to Spain, but during his time there, he struggled to hit the net, only scoring 2 in 15.
So when Guangzhou Evergande came in with a reported €42 million, it’s safe. It was a shock especially considering his then struggles in front of goal.
Times in China, unfortunately, didn’t get any better either, with him only making ten appearances in 3 years despite at least being more clinical with four goals in this time.
Troubled by injuries, this continued after returning to Europe in 2019, he managed to make 51 appearances over two seasons and chose to retire aged 33.
Pato had all the ingredients to become the next big player in the game after quickly rising on the scene as a teen for AC Milan.
However, unfortunately, when it comes to football, you can’t help injuries, and for Pato, he has endured quite a few over his time.
Pato’s best season since his Sao Paulo loan stint in 2014 was his first in China, where he scored 15 goals in 24 games.
He repeated the feat in his second and final year for Tianjin, but in just one fewer game.
Since then, Pato has played for Sao Paulo and Orlando City; however, he has struggled to rediscover that finishing touch.