Former Southampton striker Graziano Pelle has become the fifth highest paid player in world football after his move from the English Premier League to Shandong Luneng in China.
A 30 year-old Italian international who just had a decent European Championship with his country, Pelle is not among the best players in the world – or even in England – but has become the latest to jump on the China bandwagon.
Brazil striker Hulk, Argentina’s Ezequiel Lavezzi, Ghana’s Asamoah Gyan, Jackson Martinez, Ramires, Papiss Cisse and Gervinho are among the players plying their trade in the Chinese Super League, for an exuberant amount of money.
Hulk is on wages of £340,000-a-week, behind only Cristino Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, after completing a £46million transfer from Russian side Zenit St Petersburg.
China is on a mission to make their national team a force in world football and throwing money at players is the only way they know how to start, as explained by football agent Emanuele Palladino.
Pelle will earn £13.5 million-a-year, more than any player in England bar Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who has recently joined Manchester United for free on a one-year contract.
Palladino said: “It has really taken off in the last year. China wants to be seen as a force in football and the way they do that is to spend money.
“They hope to inspire future generations and ultimately the goal is to make the Chinese national team a force.
“If an overseas player goes to China, you try to make sure they are aware of the cultural differences and they will have their family and friends around them. After that the decision is for them to make.
“It is a very exciting market. There are limitless opportunities and it’s just the start of the journey. The financial rewards for players are huge.”
The question is where will it end, Ronaldo and Messi may get their heads turned, but the focus should be on the next generation of superstars.
Last year, Brazilian Alex Teixeira was only 26-years-old when he turned down English giants Liverpool to sign for Jiangsu Suning in a deal worth £38million.
If it continues as it is now, China could well be on their way to revolutionising their league and national team.
TOP 5 BEST PAID PLAYERS
1. Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid) – £18m per year
2. Lionel Messi (Barcelona) – £17m per year
3. Hulk (Shanghai SIPG) – £17m per year
4. Neymar (Barcelona) – £16.2m per year
5. Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Manchester United) – £13.6m per year
=5. Graziano Pelle (Shandong Luneng) – £13.6m per year