China / Across America

Soccer stars Tevez, Oscar headed to China, but 'Ibra' staying put

By William Hennelly (China Daily USA) Updated: 2016-12-20 12:03

The Chinese Super League is finding that you win some and you lose some when it comes to landing the world's top soccer players.

Carlos Tevez, an Argentine national team star currently with club team Boca Juniors in Buenos Aires, is about to become the highest-paid player in the world, and yes, that means more than Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo and Barcelona's Lionel Messi.

According to media reports, Tevez, 32, will be paid more than $762,000 a week in a two-year contract with CSL side Shanghai Shenhua, which he is expected to sign next week. The deal works out to $75 million over two seasons.

Tevez played his last game for Boca on Sunday as fans begged him to stay with signs saying No te vayas, Carlitos.

In Europe, Tevez had played for Manchester United and Manchester City in England and Juventus in Italy. He appeared content to finish his career at Boca Juniors until the CSL came calling with sacks of money.

Yes, many great players will head to where the pitches are greener - and there are none greener than in China now. (Chelsea star Oscar from Brazil is headed to Shanghai SIPG in a $64 million deal reported on Friday.)

But striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic of Manchester United in the Barclays Premier League has reportedly turned down a 120 million (about $149 million) deal from the CSL to stay in England.

Manchester United has confirmed it will offer Ibrahimovic another one-year deal, according to the Daily Mail of London.

The Premier League is generally considered the world's top league, if not always in Champions League play but in prestige, and although the CSL continues to peel away some world-class talent, some players prefer going against what they consider the best competition.

"Being an emerging league and certainly not the first choice of most star players, football clubs in the CSL have to pay skyrocketing salaries to attract top footballers," Andrea Sartori, global head of sports advisory practice for KPMG, whose Football Benchmark reports cover the business of soccer, told China Daily. "The long-term cost-benefit analysis of these investments has still to be demonstrated."

The Daily Mail reported that the CSL was willing to offer Ibrahimovic 56 million a year in the summer, but after the form he's shown this season at Manchester, they made the more dramatic offer.

Ibrahimovic, 35, who retired as a stalwart for the Swedish national team after Euro 2016, is enjoying a renaissance at Old Trafford this season with 11 goals in 16 matches for Jose Mourinho's team.

"As long as he (Mourinho) needs me and the team needs me, I'm here," Ibrahimovic said.

Prior to Saturday's game against West Bromwich Albion, Ibra said: "In my mind, I'm fresh. I'm like a 20-year-old boy. I feel fresh, I feel good and I'll keep going."

He went on to score both goals for United in a 2-0 victory over West Brom.

In an online Q&A he posted in October, Ibrahimovic answered his own questions about a potential move to China.

"The last few days, there's been talk about how you turned down enormous amounts of money from Chinese clubs just to go to Manchester United."

"Are the rumours correct - and why choose Manchester United in particular?"

Zlatan: "Easy. Who wouldn't choose Manchester United when they knock on the door?"

The CSL limits each of its 16 teams to five foreign players, with one of those slots reserved for players from the 47-member- Asian Football Confederation.

While Ibra might not be ready to make the move to China now, the money will probably stay on the table for him in 2018.

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