When big money was pumped into the Chinese Super League, it sent shockwaves through world football.
The likes of Oscar, Carlos Tevez, Yannick Carrasco and Hulk were tempted to the Far East because they wanted to help ‘built the project’, A.K.A make sack-loads of money, and many predicted that an avalanche of top stars would follow in moving to China.
It never quite panned out like that, after it was revealed that tax problems – and many clubs spending money that they didn’t really have – forced the Chinese Football Association to impose stricter rules on transfer spending.
They introduced a salary cap for spending on domestic players, and outlawed the use of bonuses and inducements to tempt international stars to their shores.
Another scourge of Chinese football and business in general, the so-called ‘yin yang’ contracts, where their true worth is hidden from the tax man, have also been banned, with full reporting of contractual agreements submitted to the CFA otherwise points deductions and even expulsion from the league could follow.
And the 100% transfer tax, which essentially doubles fees for the buyer, has also restricted the number of Chinese sides willing to splash out.
That said, there’s still plenty of cash sloshing about in the beautiful game in China, and that is reflected by the news that Mousa Dembele is close to agreeing terms on a move to Beijing Guoan.
The Tottenham man is out of contract in the summer anyway, and a raft of injuries this term have restricted the Belgian to a handful of first-team appearances.
Even so, he’s still a classy operator, and at 31 still has plenty to offer; this is not a player at the end of their career seeking one last payday.
So are the rumours of the demise of Chinese Super League football a touch premature? Possibly; plenty of big names have been linked with a move to the Far East in recent weeks, so will any of these sign on the dotted line?
Yaya Toure (Unattached to Any Chinese Club, 2/1)
The former Manchester City man once allegedly turned down a £430,000 per week contract with an unnamed Chinese club in the summer of 2016.
Time has moved on since, and having been released by Olympiakos Yaya now finds himself without a club.
He doesn’t come cheap of course, and so it will take a club with deep pockets to lure the lanky midfielder to sign on the dotted line.
He wants to move back to England, apparently, but takers for a 35-year-old midfielder whose legs have gone might be thin on the ground.
More likely is a switch to China or the US, with the bookmakers agreeing courtesy of their 2/1 odds.
Malcom (Barcelona to Guangzhou Evergrande, 4/1)
The Brazilian promised so much when setting tongues wagging with his performances at French side Bordeaux, and a move to Barcelona duly followed in the summer of 2018.
But the winger has only started one game for the Catalan giants, and it has been reported that Guangzhou Evergrande have tabled a £65m bid for him.
That would represent a significant revenue for Barcelona, a club who continue to generate rumours of their financial state, and you suspect they would be willing to accept those terms.
The only stumbling block might be the player himself. Would a talented 21-year-old want to move to China, and potentially derail their own career?
The money would be nice, of course, and the bookies make it a 4/1 shot that the Brazilian heads east during the transfer window.
Jose Mourinho (11/1)
It’s not just big name players being linked with a move to the Far East.
Former Monaco supremo Leonardo Jardim is being heavily touted, and now so too is Jose Mourinho, who’s an 11/1 shot with the bookies to move to the Chinese Super League for his next permanent role.
He’s already turned down Benfica, allegedly, but you do wonder if a move to a European super giant is in the offing given his struggles at Chelsea and Manchester United.
A fresh start, and lots of dosh, in China might just appeal….