The American Dream applies to soccer now.
“It’s unbelievable, the hype this league has created in the last few years. It’s getting bigger and bigger. People want to be here. People are calling me every week. This is the league that people want to be in. They used to want to be in Spain. Now they want to be here.”
He’s right. MLS keeps racking up DPs. (That means Designated Players. Google it.) But has-been players who still want to make bank aren’t all filling their accounts with dollars. Increasingly, it’s RMB.
We’re a couple years removed from when former Chelsea strikers Nicolas Anelka and Didier Drogba joined Shanghai Shenhua. But the league keeps stockpiling names you’ve probably heard of and perhaps even wondered, “Whatever happened to that dude?” China. China happened to that dude.
Here are the guys making more than you in the Chinese Super League:
Robinho, Guangzhou Evergrande
Luiz Felipe Scolari is the coach at Evergrande. So that explains that.
Paulinho, Guangzhou Evergrande
Paulinho said thumbs up to life by joining Scolari in Guangzhou. Incidentally, the airport in Guangzhou is one of the worst I’ve ever been to. There’s almost nothing to do, and you have to walk through the smoking rooms to get water.
He recently did this:
(Alessandro Diamanti is also on Evergrande but spent the last six months on loan with Fiorentina. His future is unclear.)
Diego Tardelli, Shandong Luneng
You know Tardelli as the slippery, slinking striker who parlayed the goals Ronaldinho set him up for at Atletico Mineiro into a Brazil career. I mean, he’s awful and can’t finish, but you know him.
Demba Ba, Shanghai Shenhua
Demba Ba is 30 and only a year removed from playing for Chelsea. But he looked through his weirdly-shaped purple glasses and realized the real money’s out East.
Mohamed Sissoko, Shanghai Shenhua
Momo Sissoko was one of the few players Rafa Benitez plucked from his title-winning Valencia team when he joined Liverpool. He was intent on collecting as many central midfielders as possible. Sissoko’s Liverpool career essentially ended when he got kicked in the face against Benfica and suffered pretty severe eye damage. Since then, he disappeared, even though he’s been on big-name clubs: Juventus, Paris Saint-Germain, and, uh, Levante.
Now 30, he’s in Shanghai. He recently opened his account in China. It was an own goal:
Tim Cahill, Shanghai Shenhua
Tim Cahill has tattoos of Milwall and Everton on his arm.
It’s pretty much a family tree on my arm with my life in football, too. I’ve only ever had two clubs, Millwall and Everton, and they are the only two that mean a lot to me. That appreciation is something I carry on my arm as a mark of respect. Who knows what will happen in the future?
In the future he went to the New York Red Bulls and then Shanghai Shenhua. One presumes he’ll add their club crests shortly.
Dario Conca, Shanghai SIPG
Conca was at one point the third-highest paid player in the world. According to the internet at least.
Sven-Goran Eriksson is his coach now. What a life.
Asamoah Gyan, Shanghai SIPG
Gyan makes a chill $335,000 a week. That means he’s on a higher pre-tax salary than Sergio Aguero, Neymar, and Luis Suarez. People grumbled when Gyan left Sunderland for the Middle East. But given his salaries since, and the fact that Sunderland is Sunderland, I think we can all agree that he made the right call.
Tobias Hysen, Shanghai SIPG
Tobias’ half-brother Anton was the only openly gay male soccer player for quite some time. He’s also the son of former Liverpool player Glenn Hysen.
The picture above is of me shrugging after putting him on the list just because he’s related to mildly famous people.
Eidur Gudjohnsen, Shijiazhuang Ever Bright
Ever Bright is Gudjohnsen’s 15th club since he became a professional over 20 years ago. Here’s a weird fact for you: Gudjohnsen once played in the same international match, for Iceland, as his father, Arnor. Here’s another weird fact for you: Ever Bright is the legit, honest-to-goodness name of a soccerball club in China.