Premier to Super: How did China’s former EPL stars do?

Richard Hazeldine Richard Hazeldine

This time last year the football pages were awash with reports of dozens of Premier League players on the verge of big-money moves to the Chinese Super League.

In the end several players made the switch, the most notable being Chelsea star Oscar, who left Stamford Bridge to join former Chelsea coach Andre Villas-Boas at Shanghai SIPG.

With the Super League season just concluded, FOX Sports Asia takes a look at how some of the Premier League’s former stars have fared in China over the last 12 months.

Carlos Tevez (Shanghai Shenhua)
Perhaps the highest profile former Premier League star to make the switch out east, former West Ham, Manchester United and City star Tevez joined Shanghai Shenhua from Boca Juniors on a huge £600,000 per week contract last December.

Much was expected of the Argentine striker, perhaps too much given his age, and so it proved as Tevez failed to settle in Shanghai. His lacklustre performances came in for criticism from fans, while club officials also accused him of being unfit as their big-money investment gave a poor return, scoring just four goals in 16 league appearances.

Verdict: An expensive flop. Would not be surprising if Shenhua cut their losses and send Tevez back to Argentina.

Obafemi Martins (Shanghai Shenhua)
The former Newcastle striker has become somewhat of a journeyman since leaving England, with spells in Germany, Russia, Spain and the US. But he settled nicely in China, and was everything that Tevez was not, as he bagged an impressive 7 goals in 13 games, goals that probably saved Shenhua from a relegation battle as they finished in a lowly 11th position.

Verdict: Hit. With his contract up at the end of the year, it would be no surprise to see a battle for the Nigerian’s signature ahead of next season.

Oscar (Shanghai SIPG)
The transfer that shocked the football world, the talented Brazilian’s decision to ditch Chelsea for China after falling out of favour with Antonio Conte had pundits predicting the end of European football as we knew it. When the hype had died down, the £60 million player settled in quickly and enjoyed a great start to his career in China alongside fellow Brazilians Hulk and Elkeson, scoring on his official debut as SIPG made good starts in both the league and AFC Champions League.

There were ups and downs during the season, the two missed penalties against Urawa Reds and the eight-match ban for kicking the ball at two opponents were notable lows, the latter arguably costing Shanghai in its title challenge, but overall it was a decent first season for the 26-year old, despite Shanghai’s failure in both the league and on the continent.

Verdict: Hit. The positives more or less outweighed the negatives for Oscar in 2017 as Shanghai finished runners up, but with him recently mentioning a return to Europe, will he stick around to see out his contract?

Odion Ighalo (Changchun Yatai)
The big success story of the Chinese Super League season as far as former Premier League stars go, the former Hornet has been in outstanding form for Changchun, netting 15 goals in just 27 appearances during his debut season.

Verdict: Big hit. The ex-Watford man certainly justified his £20 million fee, his goals helping Changchun to finish in seventh place.

Graziano Pelle (Shandong Luneng)

The former Southampton striker had a quiet season after making a big impact in his first year in China. The Italian international scored just six goals in 24 league appearances for Felix Magath’s Shandong as they finished the season in sixth position.

Verdict: Miss. After splashing out big-money, Pelle’s club would be expecting more bang for their buck.

Papiss Cisse (Shandong Luneng)
The Senegalese striker enjoyed a better season than teammate Pelle in Jinan, netting 11 goals in 18 appearances.

Verdict: Hit. The former Newcastle ace proved in the Premier League that he knew where the net is and he doesn’t seem to have lost that talent in China.

Ramires (Jiangsu Suning)
The former Chelsea ace has been a success story in what was a largely disappointing season for Fabio Capello’s side, Ramires netting seven goals in 23 games from midfield as the club finished a disappointing 12th in the league and were knocked out in the Round of 16 in the AFC Champions League.

Verdict: Hit. Done well in his second season, so well in fact that his performances have attracted the attention of European clubs, with Inter Milan expected to sign him in the January transfer window.