Big money on offer for EPL stars, but is China worth it?
If Frank Lampard is to swap Chelsea for China, he might do well to first consider the colourful experiences of his former teammates Nicolas Anelka and Didier Drogba.
Pay disputes, off-pitch rows and an alien culture have seen many of the foreign stars to have joined the Chinese Super League beating down the door to get out again, sometimes months after arriving, after being unable to settle.
Former France striker Anelka started the influx into China when he was snapped up by Shanghai Shenhua for a widely reported 175,000 pounds ($283,000) a week 10 months ago. He was joined in Shanghai by Drogba, who signed for an eye-watering 200,000 pounds a week.
But 33-year-old Anelka quickly saw his move turn sour and is in talks with the club to leave, with reports suggesting Drogba might go with him.
Drogba is yet to receive his salary for December because of a boardroom row, said the Oriental Sports Daily, while Shenhua told AFP that talks are under way with Anelka to cancel the remaining year of his mammoth contract. Drogba has at least been a hit on the pitch, scoring eight goals in 11 games. Anelka netted only three goals all season. And then there is the strange case of Argentine Dario Conca.
The attacking midfielder, voted the league player of the year in Brazil for two years in a row at Fluminense, has followed that up with consecutive Chinese championships at Guangzhou Evergrande.
He joined Guangzhou in 2011 for a Chinese record $10 million transfer fee, on a three-year deal worth a staggering $1.3 million a month, according to the Sina Sports website. Now he too looks set for the exit door.
Last month he left a note with the club saying, “I’ve gone and I’m not coming back.” He told Sina Sports that he was unhappy at the “many strange things which go on here”, but did not elaborate.
It’s not only the current crop of international stars who have run aground in China. Perhaps the most famous was the case of former England midfielder Paul Gascoigne, who joined Gansu Tianma in 2003 but left after four games saying he wasn’t getting paid — Anelka and Drogba might sympathise.