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Hit or miss? Football stars who switched to Chinese Super League

Holly Thackeray | Updated July 29, 2016

Chinese Super League arrives on Sky Sports

It is no secret that China has been targeting and tapping into the global football market for investment, and rivalling the MLS to lure big name stars at the end of their careers for the past few years.

Yet, the ever-improving Chinese Super League hit headlines again in the January and summer transfer windows by poaching players based in Europe but still in their prime.

Surely for this reason, Sky Sports have snapped up rights to show Chinese Super League matches for the next three seasons. The first match will be screened on Saturday July 30th as Obafemi Martins’ Shanghai Greenland Shenhua face Ramires’ Jiangsu Suning.

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Powerful midfielders Fredy Guarin and Ramires, formerly of Inter Milan and Chelsea respectively, plus ex-Roma and Arsenal attacker Gervinho, one-time PSG attacker Ezequiel Lavezzi and Colombia international Jackson Martinez are just some of the most recent names to make the lucrative trek to East Asia.

While, Graziano Pelle, once of Southampton, has been the biggest loss from the Premier League this off-season, though the Chinese transfer window has since slammed shut.

With that in mind, Coral rate stints from superstar players to have already taken part in the footballing rise of the Red Dragon…

Read on to find out what happened to some familiar faces and fan favourites!

Nicolas Anelka: Miss

Shanghai Shenhua snapped up ‘Le Sulk’ from Chelsea (who are rated 11/2 with Coral to lift the Premier League this season) back in 2012 and the feisty French forward scored just 40 seconds in to his first appearance in a pre-season friendly.

Though Anelka’s initial form was not to continue, with injuries and reports of a fan bust-up for refusing to bow seeing a return of just four goals in 27 outings. For a mooted salary of around £9.12m per year, that certainly counts as a miss, and the mercurial marksman (now at Mumbai) was farmed out on loan to Juventus before being released on a free transfer.

See Anelka’s Shanghai highlights below:

Demba Ba: Hit

Former Chelsea, Newcastle United and Besiktas frontman Ba was much more of a surprise switch in 2015, given he was still cutting it on the European continent.

Yet the Senegal striker, famous for ending Liverpool’s Premier League title hopes when pouncing on Steven Gerard’s slip, has not suffered in his Oriental adventure so far. Potent in both the Super League and Chinese FA Cup for Shanghai Shenhua, Ba has prospered where Anelka failed with 29 goals in 37 games across all competitions. But, sadly, the striker suffered a broken leg so is unlikely to feature in upcoming Sky screened matches anytime soon.

Watch Ba bang them in:

Lucas Barrios: Miss

Argentine-born Paraguay poacher Barrios is known as ‘the panther’ for a reason, becoming a prolific Bundesliga scorer for German giants Borussia Dortmund.

As a Chinese Super League winner with Guangzhou Evergrande, it is tough to label Barrios’ stint a miss. However, despite his predatory pedigree, the South American striker failed to settle, scoring 17 in 32 across all competitions but also being excluded from squads and regularly used as a substitute, before leaving after just two terms. He now plies his trade with Brazilian side Palmeiras.

Barrios’ efforts in China:

Tim Cahill: Miss

All-round action man, and former Australia and Everton icon, Cahill initially hit the ground running after swapping New York Red Bulls for Shanghai Shenhua in 2015. The on-field leader no doubt treated fans to many a corner flag punch after striking 12 times in 34 appearances across all competitions in his first season in East Asia.

Yet, the Aussie attacker terminated his contract by mutual consent after reportedly being told he was not in the team’s plans for next term and joined up with Hangzhou Greentown instead, scoring four in 16. Yet that also ended in acrimony, with cult hero Cahill released after around five months and currently club-less.

Cahill skill on show in Shanghai:

Didier Drogba: Miss

Chelsea legend Drogba was yet another Blues boy to join Shanghai Shenhua, following in the footsteps of Anelka, but played just 11 games for the Blue Devils (also known as the Flower of Shanghai), with a reported contract and wage dispute seeing the talismanic striker join Galatasaray, and then return to win another Premier League title at Stamford Bridge. The Ivorian did score eight in that brief stint, but was merely a ship passing through Shanghai waters.

View this compilation of classic Drogba goals in China:

Eidur Gudjohnsen: Miss

Everyone’s favourite Icelandic attacker Gudjohnsen has never been known as prolific and, at age 37, it is tough to expect much from the skillful Nordic star, even in China. Yet there is little doubt club Shijiazhuang Ever Bright will have expected more than one in 14 from Iceland’s all-time top scorer, especially one who wore the colours of Barcelona and Chelsea.

Gudjohnsen’s stint in the Orient lasted just those 14 games before he returned to Europe with Norway’s Molde and took part in Iceland’s heroic charge to the quarter-finals at Euro 2016.

Gudjohnsen Super League spot-kick:

Frederic Kanoute: Hit

Famous for stints with West Ham United and Tottenham, Kanoute swapped Sevilla for Beijing Guoan in 2012, with China his last stop before retirement. Though, the former Senegal forward finished on a rather quiet note in Asia, with just 13 from 46 in the green of the Imperial Guards, who play at the Workers Stadium in China’s bustling capital. His skill was still on show for all to see, however.

Kanoute highlights in Beijing:

Paulinho: Hit

After a troubled time with Tottenham, Brazil midfield engine Paulinho was another to jump ship to Evergrande and follow ‘Big Phil’ Luiz Felipe Scolari to China in 2015.

The midfield dynamo’s move seems to have worked out well, with five goals in 22 appearances so far, and crucial contributions such as strikes in the AFC Champions League knockout stage (which the club went on to win) and FIFA Club World Cup quarter-finals, plus a Super League medal to add to his collection.

Take a peek a Paulinho in Evergrande action:

Robinho: Miss

Having already taken his inconsistent but occasionally brilliant talents to and from Santos, Real Madrid, Manchester City and AC Milan, it seemed only natural that the former Brazil prodigy follow compatriot and ex-coach Scolari to China and Evergrande.

The Samba flair star scored three in nine as the Southern China Tigers won the Super League but returned to his homeland with Clube Atletico Mineiro when his contract expired after six months, which was no doubt a disappointment to Big Phil.

Take a gander at Robinho on target in China:

Yakubu Aiyegbeni: Hit

Premier League cult hero Yakubu penned a deal with Southern China Tigers city rivals Guangzhou R and F back in 2012, and was a similar striking success in Asia, scoring 25 in 45. The Nigerian former Everton favourite proved dangerous on his debut in the derby with Evergrande, bagging the winner for the Blue Lions to end their 34 league game unbeaten home record.

Though, Yakubu soon moved on to Reading and Kayserispor, but is now without a club for the upcoming campaign.

Feed the Yak and he will score:

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