Mikel Obi: A Letter to my Chinese family

Mikel Obi became one of the English Premier League’s top-class players to join the Chinese Super League (CSL) for an outrageous fee. He arrived Tianjin TEDA last week and has been relishing this great opportunity to face new challenges in China.

The 29-year-old posted an emotional Twitter message with the caption: “A Letter To My Chinese Family.”

“After ten years, 374 appearances and eleven trophies, it is time for me to say goodbye,” he started.

Nigeria’s Obafemi Martins and Anthony Ujah are currently playing in the CSL.

Other notable Nigerian footballers who plied their trade in the Chinese Super League include: Garba Lawal (2007 Changsha Ginde) and Peter Utaka (2012–2013 Dalian Aerbin, 2013–2014 Beijing Guoan, 2014 Shanghai Shenxin).

Among other popular African footballers who spent time in China are:

  • Karim Benounes (2008 Zhejiang Greentown) – Algeria
  • Abdoul-Aziz Nikiema (2009 Qingdao Jonoon) – Burkina Faso
  • Nando Rafael (2014 Henan Jianye)- Angola
  • Modeste M’bami (2011 Changchun Yatai)- Cameroon
  • Stéphane Mbia (2016– Hebei China Fortune)- Cameroon
  • Didier Drogba (2012 Shanghai Shenhua) – Ivory Coast
  • Gervinho (2016– Hebei China Fortune) – Ivory Coast
  • Ahmed Salah Hosny (2008 Zhejiang Greentown) – Egypt
  • Kwame Ayew (2004–2006 Inter Shanghai) – Ghana
  • Asamoah Gyan (2015–2016 Shanghai SIPG) – Ghana
  • Frédéric Kanouté (2012–2013 Beijing Guoan) – Mali
  • Seydou Keita (2012–2013 Dalian Aerbin) – Mali

Pelle (left) was given a rapturous reception by Shandong Luneng supporters on Tuesday at the airport

The 30-year-old made 81 appearances during two successful campaigns with the Saints, scoring 30 goals

Graziano Pelle switched from Southampton to Shandong Luneng for a £13m transfer fee.

Jackson Martinez, Hulk, Oscar, Ramirez, Renato Augusto, Jo, Demba Ba, Paulinho and Tim Cahill are some of the world-class players who have made contributions to the development of football in China.

Interestingly, these Chinese spenders aren’t slowing down on their investments which draw inspiration from a desire to transform the CSL.

A July 2016 report from The Daily Mail shows the Chinese clubs are hell-bent on building a reputable league, and by extension a competitive national team which will be a force to reckon with in international football.

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

“It [the crazy spending] has really taken off in the last year,” says Emmanuele Palladino, a football agent. “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,” Palladino added.