Many football fans will remember the growth of the Chinese Super League in 2016 that saw so many stars move to the Far East.
The likes of Oscar, Ramires, Hulk, Alex Teixeira and Jackson Martinez all swapped European football for big-money moves to the Chinese Super League over a period of time that had clubs wondering whether they could contend in the transfer market.
In the years since, regulations have seen the Chinese Super League look to combat their clubs splashing out on foreign signings, but that doesn’t mean Europe’s biggest stars have stopped being linked.
Most recently, Real Madrid forward Gareth Bale was linked with a move to the Chinese Super League in the 2019 summer transfer window – and a deal had looked certain until talks fell through.
And while a move to China would have been extremely beneficial in securing Bale’s future post-football, it would have also hurt the Welshman’s reputation.
The aforementioned players who switched Europe for China have all been slated for making money-motivated moves as the distance between footballers and fans supposedly grows wider. Not just that, moving to China can seemingly affect a player’s value on Football Index as Bale’s dropped drastically upon the reports of a move.
But things can also work in the opposite direction, especially if the Chinese Super League continues to clamp down on spending, as Football Index Elite aficionado Craig Rennie explains.
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“It’s clear players over there hold very little value to traders,” Craig Rennie told Squawka.
“But a wage cap equating to around £50,000 per week no longer makes the CSL an appealing opportunity to players, so we are likely to see very few leaving for China.
“But more importantly, the current talent over there are likely to head back when their current contracts expire.”
So if stars are looking to return to Europe from the Chinese Super League, how can you make the most of the potential moves with your Football Index portfolio? Well, there are a number of players who seem likely to leave soon which can mean good things for their value – and those who buy them before they rise. But there are also big names that may be worth avoiding.
The first is Belgian midfielder Yannick Carrasco, who left Atletico Madrid for Dalian Yifang in 2018 as he sought regular football to secure his place at the World Cup. It worked, as he played four times en route to Belgium’s third-placed finish in Russia but the 26-year-old hasn’t really settled.
Carrasco has previously been linked with a return to Europe, most notably Arsenal in January 2019, but nothing materialised. However, these reports have caused Carrasco’s Football Index value to fluctuate over time and another rise could be on the cards.
“Yannick Carrasco has made no secret that he wants to return to Europe after becoming unsettled in China and has been rumoured to move to Arsenal amongst others in recent transfer windows,” Craig added.
“His value on the Index has fluctuated a lot over the years and I was fortunate enough to take advantage of this some time ago, when I made a nice profit from the back of the transfer rumours.
“He had a small increase since the news of salary caps emerged but with his current value of £1.21 I feel there is still some value in the Belgian. He is still only 26 and has retained his place in a very strong Belgian side despite most of his appearances coming from the bench.
“He has Champions league experience with his time at Atletico Madrid and has the pedigree to still perform at the top level. He looks certain for a return to Europe in my eyes.”
Another Belgian linked with a return from the Chinese Super League is Marouane Fellaini, who only joined Shandong Luneng Taishan from Manchester United in February 2019.
The 32-year-old has played 34 times for the Chinese Super League club but faces a big pay cut due to the wage cap rules. As a result, Fellaini has been linked with a return to the Premier League and a reunion with David Moyes at West Ham United – having worked with the Scot at Everton and Man Utd.
And although a move to West Ham may not come, the Premier League links could see Fellaini’s Football Index value rise – but Craig is preaching caution.
He said: “He has seen his value increase by 16p per share since the news broke, but at the age of 32 he wouldn’t be one I’d be rushing to add to my portfolio; although, for 47p per share, he may have some small short term value, with regular game time in the Premier League.”
Odion Ighalo had a wonderful first two seasons in England, scoring 20 goals in 35 Championship games for Watford before carrying that form into the Premier League with 16 goals in 37 games.
But his third campaign was one to forget and resulted in him leaving the Hornets for China and Changchun Yatai. The Nigerian has found form in the Chinese Super League with Changcun Yatai and Shanghai Greenland Shenhua but, once again, his age may hamper any growth.
“One that could be of interest is former Watford striker Odion Ighalo, who has hit the ground running since heading to Asia,” Craig said.
“He has scored regularly and at 31p could be a good bargain with a return to Europe, although at 30 years old, age isn’t really on his side.”
Like Fellaini, Marko Arnautovic moved to the Chinese Super League in 2019, after probably the biggest saga of the January transfer window. But the Austrian, currently at Shanghai SIPG, is another who could be on the move.
“Marko Arnautovic could lead the line for many big clubs in Europe and, at 53p he could be a shrewd investment,” Craig said.
Others to watch
Outside those with Premier League pasts or links to England’s top flight, there are a few other players Craig believes could be good Football Index investments.
He added: “Others worth considering with a transfer could be former Villarreal striker Cedric Bakambu (60p) who has had success in China and Anderson Talisca (63p).”