Money Men: How did Hulk, Teixeira & Co. perform in China?
The Chinese Super League (CSL) garnered worldwide headlines for some astronomical transfer fees handed out earlier this year. With many players now finishing up their campaigns, we rank the performances of 10 of them in relation to their price tags…
10. Jackson Martinez, Guangzhou – €42 million (£37.9m)
The move from Atletico Madrid made almost as many headlines as the striker managed minutes this season. It was underwhelming to say the least.
The Colombian didn't look great in the early games and especially struggled in the Asian Champions League. Guangzhou looked more cohesive when he was out injured (as he often was) and the media started to ask if there had been a mistake.
Martinez improved upon his return in the summer, but given the amount paid it was a forgettable debut amid rumours he will make a quick return to Europe.
9. Ezequiel Lavezzi, Hebei CFFC – €8 million (£7.2m)
The Argentine was just starting to settle in the chilly north when he was whisked away by his country for the 2016 Copa America.
The thrilling prospect of seeing a Chinese Super League player in the final of that tournament was dashed with a broken elbow sustained in the semi-final win over the United States, when he had been looking very good indeed.
He almost returned for his club before the end of the season, but just fell short of that goal.
8. Gervinho, Hebei CFFC – €18 million (£16.25m)
It was a sign of the changing times in February when a little-known club preparing for a first-ever season in China's top flight was able to sign one of Roma's most important attacking players.
The former Arsenal star began well with a goal on his debut at Guangzhou R&F. His movement caused problems for opposing defences, but he should perhaps have scored more than three goals, although he did manage five assists.
Overall, it was a good season for the newly-promoted club and decent for Gervinho who worked hard but was not always on the same wavelength as his team-mates. Suspension and injury then brought his season to a premature end.
7. Ramires, Jiangsu Suning – €28 million (£25.3m)
From a European point of view, Chelsea's sale of Ramires to Jiangsu (then coached by former star Dan Petrescu) signalled the start of the big-money CSL moves in 2016.
Ramires has added some bite in the middle – too much at times as red cards and suspensions attest – for Jiangsu and looks to have enjoyed himself on football pitches in China, where he has enjoyed more space in the middle.
It was hoped that he would be more influential but despite some criticism in China, it was a decent first season.
6. Graziano Pelle, Shandong Luneng – €15 million (£13.6m)
The Italian international arrived at Shandong Luneng in July, walking from the European Championships into a Chinese relegation battle.
To make matters more interesting, Felix Magath had been in charge for just a few weeks. The 31-year-old scored five vital goals for a team that was low on confidence, with spectacular strikes against Tianjin and Chongqing hinting at more to come.
His anonymous showing in the quarter-final exit of the Asian Champions League against FC Seoul was the main disappointment.
Collectively he wasn’t bad at all, but fans will expect more from one of the highest paid players in the world next season.
5. Fredy Guarin, Shanghai Shenhua – €11 million (£9.9m)
It was a solid season for the Colombian after arriving in Shanghai in January. He took time to settle which had fans wondering whether he was really necessary as the team was not short of midfielders.
Growing in authority as the season progressed, Guarin helped the Blues to a fourth-placed finish, an improvement on the last few campaigns, and some of his driving runs from midfield had fans on the edge of their seats.
A little more quality in the final third and a little more understanding with team-mates would not have gone amiss but all-in-all, it was a decent first season.
4. Hulk, Shanghai SIPG – €55 million (£49.7m)
It's hard to judge a player who arrives in the middle of the season and picks up a fairly serious injury – having already scored – in his first game. There were enough signs, however, that Hulk is going to enjoy himself in China just as much as the country's defenders will not.
The Brazilian striker does what it says on the tin: he puts himself about and then shoots, very hard.
This year has been a highly enjoyable trailer and five goals in seven games suggest that 2017 could be well worth the wait.
3. Renato Augusto, Beijing Guoan – €8 million (£7.2m)
For a while it looked like the highlight of the midfielder's first season would be that a Beijing player had captained mighty Brazil in 2016.
The former Corinthians star looked to be going through the motions initially although it should be pointed out the whole team was struggling early on.
The second half of the season saw some of the majesty that he had become famous for and helped to drive Beijing to a fifth-placed finish that was disappointing overall, but much better than it could have been.
2. Burak Yilmaz, Beijing Guoan – €8 million (£7.2m)
The Turkish international barely played in the first half of the season due to injury though it did not go unnoticed that he still managed to take his place at the European Championships.
Fortunately for fans and player, the goals that had flowed in Turkey and on the international stage started to come in China.
He gave Beijing an outlet and a real attacking threat. If he's fit next season, the capital club could challenge.
1. Alex Teixeira, Jiangsu Suning – €50 million (£45.1m)
There was some consternation in Europe that this Brazilian supposedly spurned some big western clubs when leaving Shakhtar Donetsk.
Europe's loss has been Jiangsu's gain as Teixeira has shown on plenty of occasions why he cost what he did.
Not only has he scored 11 league goals despite playing behind the striker, he has managed eight assists and become the player that coach Choi Yong-soo builds his starting 11 around.
As well as his goals and assists, the 26-year-old deserves praise for making those around him better.
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John Duerden has covered Asian sport for over 20 years for The Guardian, Associated Press, ESPN, BBC, New York Times, as well as various Asian media. He is also the author of four books, including Rovers Revolution: Blackburn's Rise from Nowhere to Premier League Champions and Lions and Tigers: The Story of Football in Singapore and Malaysia.
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