As many of you have done, are doing right now, or are continuing to do for the 100th time, re-watching cracking goals has become an even more prominent pastime than it was before we started quarantining.
Reminiscing about Eden Hazard’s scorching curler against Tottenham in the Battle of the Bridge slowly descended into Oscar’s equally sumptuous screamer against Juventus in the Champions League. That then moved on to….wait, no, it stopped there. I’ll tell you why it stopped there, because of Oscar.
That once supremely talented Brazilian who managed to oust Juan Mata from the Chelsea starting lineup is now into his fourth season in China. I’m not one to question someone’s ambition, but on this occasion, the lure of untapped riches seems to have superseded the challenge of playing a higher standard of football.
We may have already seen the decline of big-name players moving to the Far East, however, as the Chinese authorities introduced a salary cap on foreign players. This could spark an exodus of high-profile stars in the Chinese Super League – and the Premier League could beneficiaries of that.
Anyway – while they’re still out there – let’s take a look at the players currently plying their trade in China, and just how well things have gone.
OSCAR – SHANGHAI SIPG
Might as well start with him then, eh? Oscar’s £60m move from Chelsea was one that few saw coming, but the 28-year-old midfielder (yep, he’s only 28) has enjoyed some decent levels of success with his new club.
He’s netted 39 goals in 123 outings, winning the Chinese Super League title in 2018 and the FA Super Cup the following year. More interestingly however, he was banned for eight matches in 2017 for purposefully kicking the ball at opposition players during a league match. Oh, and he once missed two penalties in a single game. So, there’s that.
HULK – SHANGHAI SIPG
The man whose appearance coined the phrase ‘built like a brick sh**house’ has been out in China since 2016. Sure, perhaps the former isn’t entirely true, but we’ll pretend it is.
He’s scooped the same trophies as his fellow Brazilian has during his time with the club, where he also happens to be captain. As he’s done throughout his career, he boasts an immense scoring rate, with 70 goals in his 125 matches for the club. He looks very much at home in the city and is a big fan favourite among the club’s supporters.
MARKO ARNAUTOVIĆ – SHANGHAI SIPG
Whoever thought they’d see Marko Arnautović and Hulk lineup in the same side? Only in China, eh?
Following his departure from West Ham, the Austrian has hit the ground running with his new club, already notching nine goals in his 11 league games to date, bringing his total up to 10 in 16 before football came to a standstill.
MOUSA DEMBÉLÉ – GUANGZHOU R&F
There was a tinge of sadness about Mousa Dembélé’s departure from Europe because there was no questioning how much talent the Belgian possesses. He left the continent to join Guangzhou R&F in January of 2019, making 26 league outings during that season.
His injection of talent into the squad was not enough to inspire them onto greatness, though, as Guangzhou finished 12th in the table, winning just nine matches all season.
MAROUANE FELLAINI – SHANDONG LUNENG
A lot of things have changed for Marouane Fellaini in the last few years – his club, his reputation, but most importantly, his hair. Those famous locks were bid farewell during his Manchester United days, and they’ve seemingly given him a keener eye for goal.
Netting 13 times across all competitions in his debut season helped propel Shandong up to third in the 2018 Chinese Super League season, finishing just ten points off top spot. The following year their performances worsened, though, as they ended up fifth in the table.
GRAZIANO PELLÈ – SHANDONG LUNENG
Alongside Fellaini at Shandong Luneng is former Saint, Graziano Pellè. He’s now into his fourth season at the club, where his scoring rates have continued to increase year upon year.
In the most recent season, he bagged an impressive 17 in 25 league outings, finishing joint-third in the goalscoring charts. Handed the number nine shirt upon his arrival, he continues to demonstrate the class that Southampton supporters saw – on occasion – in England.
STEPHAN EL SHAARAWY – SHANGHAI SHENHUA
Opting to leave the home comforts of Italy where he’d spent all of his career to date, 27-year-old Stephan El Shaarawy now plies his trade in Asia after moving from Roma last summer.
He’s already tasted silverware in his short time at the club, winning the Chinese FA Cup with victory over Shandong Luneng Taishan in the final.
MAREK HAMŠÍK – DALIAN YIFANG
The Napoli legend bid an emotional goodbye to his former club in February 2019, making the €13m move to the Chinese side managed by none other than Rafa Benitez.
Unfortunately, neither has managed to improve the club’s fortunes much, and a ninth-place finish in his debut campaign was hardly the impact he had hoped for.
SALOMÓN RONDÓN – DALIAN YIFANG
Also joining the Benitez revolution is former Newcastle and West Brom striker Salomón Rondón. The Venezuelan all-time top goalscorer enjoyed a fruitful campaign during his loan spell at St James’ Park (under Benitez’s tutelage) and he’s carried that on during his short spell in China.
He’s scored five goals in his 11 league appearances to date – with three in his opening three games – and while their league finish wasn’t the best, with a full pre-season there is no reason to discount them from finishing much higher next term.
PAULINHO – GUANGZHOU EVERGRANDE
One of the worst players ever to don a Tottenham shirt, Paulinho has enjoyed a very bizarre career path. After plying his trade in Lithuania in his youth, he was plucked from his native Brazil by Tottenham, where he came under scathing criticism during a two-season spell. There was a collective sigh of relief when he joined Guangzhou Evergrande. His three seasons there saw him lift two league titles, an FA Cup, a FA Super Cup and an AFC Champions League trophy.
Then he was bought by Barcelona, did well, went back on loan to Evergrande and then re-signed with them permanently.
He won the Chinese Super League in 2019, claiming the league’s ‘MVP’, netting 19 goals along the way, while he’s also been in the Team of the Year three times. So, all in all, a pretty fruitful career loaded with trophies galore. Not too shabby. Oh, and he’s managed by Fabio Cannavaro. Not too shabby either.
ALEX TEIXEIRA – JIANGSU SUNING
Yes, him, the would-be Liverpool player.
Making mincemeat of the Ukrainian Premier League prompted Europe to take note, and when it seemed mere moments from Liverpool winning the race for his prized signature, Jiangsu Suning got involved.
He’s now been with the club for four years, scoring 63 goals in 133 appearances, but yet to taste silverware. He scored 11 league goals in his debut campaign to fire the club into a second-place finish, but since they’ve failed to finish higher than fourth in the table.