When Alex Teixeira completes his move to the Chinese Super League, in the minds of some British fans he will have become a particular type of player: motivated by money and indifferent to the competitive challenge of mainland Europe
Teixeira, until very recently, had been expected to arrive at Liverpool and had gone as far as to publicly profess his eagerness to join the club and play alongside childhood friend Philippe Coutinho.
It wasn’t to be; FSG were unwilling to meet Shakhtar Donestsk’s asking price and, with the English transfer window now closed, are powerless to prevent the player from moving to Asia. It’s a shame, because Teixeira is extremely talented and has the kind of offensive flair which would have made the Premier League a brighter place, but - putting that disappointment to the side - let’s go easy with the recriminations.
Football players have a short career. While they earn enormous amounts of money and, in the real world, it’s fair to ask whether there’s a lifestyle upgrade to be had from earning £250,000/week instead of £200,000/week, this is still a relative situation and, much as it does in civilian world, sporting talent will nearly always flow towards the money - irrespective of where that money is.
In some cases, this can’t just be dismissed as avarice. Asamaoh Gyan, for example, who is something of a poster-child for this movement, has used the exorbitant wages and bonuses he has earned in the Middle East to fund a range of outside business interests. He is less footballer, more industry; alongside the typical athlete playthings - boats, record labels - he has established a very successful Ghanaian import/export business and can reasonably be seen as someone who has used his football career to lay the groundwork for the rest of his life.
These players are entitled to take the money and to pocket the rewards which are on offer - and, in some cases, they would be incredibly foolish not to do so. We look at football as a cartoonish industry of absurd luxury, but it’s a fickle world dictated by form and one which can also be destroyed by injury. Players have to take what they can, while they can; it’s ugly but rational.
And there’s another other pertinent point here: sneering at Chinese football is a hypocrisy of sorts. The Premier League may be a world-dominating behemoth now, but it owes its status almost entirely to its resources. Yes, England is a traditional football heartland and has a stronger natural association with the game, but foreign players didn’t migrate to our leagues for the weather or the food. Many of the complaints which are being aimed at China now are similar in tone to those levelled at our own domestic league a couple of decades ago. We may have had a richer history and the game may have been a more natural part of our psyche, but dozens and dozens of players were gouged from Serie A, La Liga and Ligue 1 and ours is only an elite league because of economic privilege.
And that has never been more true than it is right now: Andre Ayew is earning £90,000/week at Swansea, the recent arrivals at Watford (Amrabat, Suarez) and Bournemouth (Iturbe) were presumably motivated in part by the wages on offer and, rightly, that’s accepted for what it is. All of those players could be playing at “bigger” clubs and could all have made what would - superficially - be described as more “ambitious” steps in their career, but they haven’t.
It might take some getting used to, but the Chinese Super League is just exploiting a truism we have known - and been benefitting from - for some time: cash rules.