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Brazilian players find home in 'club China'

(Agencies) Updated: 2015-02-25 13:58

Intensive recruitment opens wide field for athletes to earn big pay, reports Bloomberg.

The top goal scorers in China's Super League might sound familiar-to a Brazilian soccer fan.

Half of last season's top 10 are from Brazil with just one Chinese player, Shanghai SIPG midfielder Wu Lei, on the list. When the league kicks off on March 7, Elkeson de Oliveira Cardoso, Anselmo Ramon, Davi Rodigues de Jesus, Vagner Love and Bruno Meneghel will have even more company.

Chinese clubs have been involved in three of the five biggest trades during the current Brazilian transfer window, a period that allows the Latin American teams to buy and sell players from Jan 23 through April 16. Cruzeiro attacker Ricardo Goulart's 16 million euro ($18.3 million) move to Guangzhou Evergrande was the most expensive soccer player sale from Brazil to China.

"China is the new El Dorado for football," said Marcos Motta, referring to the legendary land of gold. He spoke after returning from Asia, where he acted on the deal that took Argentine Dario Conca from Rio de Janeiro-based Fluminense to Shanghai SIPG, a team owned by the Shanghai International Port (Group) Co Ltd.

"From the conversations I had there with club presidents, owners, president of companies and governors of the cities, they will not stop," Motta said.

China's clubs spent $101 million importing players in 2014, triple the $28 million spent a year earlier, according to soccer's global governing body FIFA. One-third of the 74 foreign players in China's 16 top division clubs are Brazilian.

Transfer fees are rising as well. China bought 20 players from Brazil in 2012 for $9 million in fees, FIFA said. Last year, the fees for the same number of players climbed to $40 million.

The salaries in China are often "much, much higher" than the athletes could get in Europe, with several of the world's best-paid players competing in the Super League, Motta said. While in Brazil, some players have had to go to court to get paid.

Goulart, 23, was linked in local media reports to European teams including Monaco before moving to Guangzhou in southern China. He denied the move to China would hurt his national team chances.

"The world is so connected today you know as much about what's happening in China as you do about England," Goulart told reporters before traveling to Asia.

The forward would not have received such favorable terms had he moved to Europe, according to Eduardo Carlezzo, a Sao Paulo, Brazil-based sports lawyer who specializes in international transfers.

"What the Chinese have now that differentiates them from any other country is the salary," Carlezzo said. "Maybe you can have something near to that in Qatar or other emirates, but it's been the big difference in the head of the players when they see the amount offered to them."

Goulart will join Elkeson at Evergrande, which in 2013 became the second Chinese team to win Asia's top club competition. Elkeson, who's amassed more than 2 million followers on China's biggest social network Sina Weibo, features on the team's website to promote products and tickets.

The team, which is 50 percent owned by Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, led the league with an average attendance of 42,154 last year. The club declined to comment on its hiring policy, and Shanghai SIPG did not return calls and e-mails for comment.

Brazilian soccer players' skills coupled with their level of training make them attractive to Chinese teams, said Yan Qiang, a soccer commentator who was deputy editor-in-chief of Titan Sports, the highest-circulation sports newspaper in China.

"It will cost a lot, which will be a high economic burden that clubs' normal operations cannot afford," he said. "So these clubs have to invest more outside capital. Moreover, introducing foreign players will bring limitations to the development of local players."

Brazil national team striker Diego Tardelli, 29, who failed to impress while playing in Europe with Real Betis, PSV Eindhoven and Anzhi Makhachkala, will earn as much as $370,000 a month at Shandong Luneng Taishan, local news agency Estado said. The average salary of players in Brazil's top league Serie A is about $18,000 a week, according to the Daily Mail.

"In the last two years, Brazilian football has gone through many financial difficulties and I couldn't let this opportunity slip away," Tardelli told Estado. "I wanted to ensure my nest egg because a footballer's career is short and I may not have another opportunity like this." Shandong Luneng declined to comment.

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