Top 15 Former European Soccer Stars You Didn't Know Were Playing In China

Transfer records have been shattered over the past few years in soccer. Gareth Bale, Neymar, Luis Suarez, etc... All of these players were sold for out-of-this-world prices. Apparently the sport has become so lucrative that the huge clubs around the world are more than able, and willing, to spend these types of simply outrageous fees for these players. Sure, in the United States we have LeBron James and Clayton Kershaw making upwards of $30 million a year, but that is nothing compared to the more than $100 million that Gareth Bale was sold for (from Tottenham to Real Madrid). Soccer is currently the sport to be in if money is what you are most worried about. Lately, and most recently in the summer of 2016, China is a country that you should be begging to play in.

Now many may be surprised by China because good players rarely ever come out of China, but recently China has flexed their financial muscle and dished out significant amounts of money to many of Europe's top players.

The following is a list of the 15 former European soccer players that you didn't know were now playing in China. A few may surprise you. Quite a few will amaze you just because of the sheer amount that the various Chinese clubs spent on them.

15 Gaël Kakuta

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Gaël Kakuta made his way to China in 2016. He was sold by Sevilla to Hebei China Fortune for $5.31 million. For Hebei China Fortune, Kakuta has made 24 appearances and has scored 2 goals. Given that he is a winger, you would think he should have scored more goals in that number of appearances, but he must be struggling. In his career, Kakuta has played in 151 games. In those games he has scored a total of 19 goals. The various clubs that Kakuta has appeared for include: Chelsea, Fulham, Bolton Wanderers, Dijon, Vitesse, Lazio, Rayo Vallecano, and Sevilla.

Unfortunately, due to this 25-year-old's recent struggles in China, he has yet to be called up to his home nation of France's men's national squad. France has had a lot of recent success, so breaking into the squad will be very tough for Kakuta.

14 Papiss Demba Cissé

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We continue our list with Papiss Demba Cissé. The French and Senegalese international (only plays for Senegal) was sold by Newcastle this past summer (2016) to the Chinese side SD Luneng for $6.21 million. Before moving to China, Cissé had spent the past 5 years with Newcastle United of the English Premier League (now in the English Championship). With Newcastle he found himself in 131 games and scored 44 goals for the side. Prior to joining Newcastle, Cissé played in the German Bundesliga for 3 years and prior to that he spent his first 5 years in the French Ligue 1 and 2 divisions.

For his career, Cissé has a total of 141 goals scored. So far in China, Cissé has seen some success. In 13 club appearances he has scored 5 goals.

13 Anthony Ujah

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Anthony Ujah is a young, solid player that was sold to a Chinese club from Werder Bremen for a fee of $12.22 million. For Werder Bremen last year, he scored 14 goals in 35 appearances. This 26-year-old started he career in Norway, before moving the German Bundesliga in 2011. Over the course of his career, Ujah has played in 212 matches and has scored 87 goals in those games. Of those 212 appearances, Ujah has made 15 of those for his Chinese side, Liaoning Whowin. For Whowin, Ujah has scored 5 goals.

Ujah is from Nigeria. For his country, he has earned 7 caps. That is not bad for a player at his age. Stay tuned on Ujah, there may be good things coming as his career continues to progress.

12 Fredy Guarín

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Fredy Guarín is a former Ligue 1, Portuguese Liga, and Serie A player. He appeared for Saint-Étienne, then Porto, and then Internazionale. Between the three clubs, Guarín took part in 213 games, scoring 27 goals. He has also appeared for his home nation of Columbia for a total of 57 games, scoring 4 goals.

Guarín moved to China from Internazionale for $13.81 million. He currently plays for SH Shenhua where he has played in 26 matches, netting 4 goals. Guarín seems to be having a good amount of success in China, but it is a bit unfortunate that many quality players, like Guarín, decided to follow the money and take their talents to the Chinese Super League, rather than stay and play with the best in Europe.

11 Alan Carvalho

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Alan Carvalho, the 27-year-old forward was sold from the Austrian Bundesliga side Red Bull Salzburg for $11.75 million to GZ Evergrande. For Red Bull Salzburg, Carvalho appeared 129 times and scored 92 goals. He is a great scorer and his price tag was fairly warranted. Carvalho has not put up quite the same numbers in China that he did in Austria, but he is still scoring a fair amount. So far he has appeared for his club 35 times and has netted 18 goals.

Carvalho is yet to earn a cap from his home nation of Brazil. He had expressed interest in playing for the Austrian national team as he claimed to be half-Austrian, but FIFA rules did not allow him to make the switch.

10 Fredy Montero

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Fredy Montero has been a solid player for a long time now. He started his career in Colombia and made his way from there to the MLS, to Portugal, and then to China. The Portuguese side that sold Montero to his new Chinese club, Tianjin Teda, received a fee of $5.31 million. In his career, Montero has made a total of 320 first-team appearances. In those 320 appearances, he has scored 130 goals, most often playing as a forward. While playing for his Chinese side, Montero has played in 30 matches, scoring 9 goals.

For his country, this 29-year old has only appeared 4 times. Colombia has been a very good side for a long time now, so it is not surprising that Montero has struggled to find his way into the squad. In his 4 appearances for Colombia, he has scored 1 goal. He has not seen the field for his country since 2009.

9 Ezequiel Lavezzi

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Ezequiel Lavezzi made a surprise move to China last year from the highly decorated, super-club Paris Saint-Germain FC. The Chinese side, HB CFFC, acquired the Argentine midfielder/striker for $5.85 million. The move stunned many around the world, as Lavezzi seemed to be enjoying his time and success with PSG. As has been proven in the past in professional sports though, sometimes the money means more than the club for players.

Over the past four seasons at PSG, Lavezzi scored 35 goals in 163 appearances. Over the course of his career, he has piled up a total of 484 club appearances and 51 national team caps (appearances). For club, he has scored 126 goals, while for country, he has scored 9. In China, Lavezzi has struggled a bit. He picked up an injury after only 10 games and has been out ever since.

8 Asamoah Gyan

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Asamoah Gyan has struggled in recent years, but he still found himself being sold to Chinese club SIPG for $9.56 million. When sold from his former club, Al-Ain FC (UAE), he instantly became one of the highest paid players in the world. When playing for SIPG, Gyan is paid $283,000 per week.

Prior to his move to China, Gyan played for various clubs around the world. He has been in the UAE, England, Italy, and France. While with his former clubs, the 30-year-old was able to pile up 302 club appearances, scoring 174 goals. For his country, Ghana, Gyan has appeared for 95 caps and 48 goals. The reason for his high price tag everywhere he has gone is due to his prolific scoring record for club and for country.

In China, Gyan has seen the field 17 times and has scored 10 goals.

7 Demba Ba

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Demba Ba is a well traveled man. Over the course of his 12 year career, Ba has played in six different countries. Those countries include: France, Germany, England, Turkey, Belgium, and China. Over his career, Ba has made 344 club appearances, scoring 176 goals, playing mainly as a striker. He was sold from Beşiktaş, the Turkish club, to his current Chinese club, Shanghai Shenhua, in 2015 for $14.06 million. This transfer is currently the 9th highest in Asian soccer history. The jury is still out on whether or not Ba is truly worth this kind of money, but only time will tell.

For his country of birth, Senegal, Demba Ba has appeared 19 times over nine years. Senegal has never been a good squad, so the 19 appearances is not as low as it seems, but one would still think he would have appeared more. For his country, Ba has scored a total of 4 goals. This ineffectiveness while playing for his country could be the reason for his inconsistent call-up record as a Senegalese international.

6 Paulinho

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José Paulo Bezerra Maciel Júnior, most commonly known as Paulinho, made his move to China from English Premier League side, Tottenham Hotspur FC. His Chinese club, Guangzhou Evergrande, paid an 8th all-time (in Asia) fee of $14.87 million. Paulinho started for his new club in 2015 and has seen a fair amount of success for his side. Over the past two seasons, he has made 64 appearances, scoring 15 goals as a midfielder. Over the course of his career, the 28-year-old has accumulated 432 club appearances, scoring 84 goals.

For his nation of birth, Brazil, Paulinho has made 36 total appearances, scoring 6 goals. He most recently appeared for Brazil on November 10th, 2016 in a 2018 World Cup qualifying game against Argentina (he scored). Paulinho has seen fairly consistent call-ups for his national team, as he has been seen as a consistent player in the midfield.

5 Gervinho

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Gervais Lombe Yao Kouassi, better known as Gervinho, made his move to China from the Italian Serie A side, AS Roma. Hebei CFFC, his current Chinese side, paid a 6th highest ever price (in Asia) of $19.12 million for Gervinho. For Hebei CFFC, he has, up to this point, appeared in 18 matches, scoring a total of 3 goals. Over the course of his career, Gervinho has made 390 club game appearances, scoring 104 goals as a forward. We'll have to see if he'll be in China for the long haul.

For his home nation of Ivory Coast, Gervinho has earned 71 caps. Over those 71 matches, he has scored 20 international goals. Gervinho has been an extremely solid player over the course of his career, for club and for country.

4 Ramires

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Ramires Santos do Nascimento, most commonly known as just Ramires, made his move to China from Chelsea. Chelsea sold him to the Chinese club, Jiangsu Suning, for $29.74 million. At the time of this transfer, it was the highest ever for a transfer in Asia, but shortly after making his move to China, the transfer record was broken twice. For his new Chinese side, Ramires has appeared 36 times, scoring 5 goals as a midfielder. Over the course of his career, the now 29-year old, has scored 66 goals in 423 club appearances.

For his international team, Brazil, Ramires has made a total of 52 appearances. Over the course of those 52 appearances, he has scored 4 goals. Since his move to China, Ramires has seemed to have fallen out of favor for his international squad. It is unfortunate, but it seems to be what players who move to lesser leagues must deal with as consequence for the easier competition they face on a weekly basis.

3 Jackson Martínez

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Jackson Arley Martínez Valencia, best known as Jackson Martínez, plays for Guangzhou Evergrande. He made the move to this Chinese side from Atlético Madrid this past year for a former Asian record fee of $44.61 million. Martínez has made 16 total appearances for his new Chinese side so far, scoring 4 goals as a forward. Over the course of his career, he has made 380 club appearances, scoring 189 goals in those matches. Over the past few years, Martínez has struggled. Madrid bought him for a large sum of money hoping for a striker that they could rely on. Unfortunately, he only brought them more inconsistency and was sold very quickly when Guangzhou Evergrande came calling.

As a representative of the Colombian national team, Jackson Martínez has totalled 40 caps. In those 40 international appearances, he has scored a total of 10 goals. Unlike many of the other players on this list, Martínez is still a key component of his national team. He is consistently called up and still regularly appears.

2 Alex Teixeira Santos

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Alex Teixeira Santos, most commonly known as Alex Teixeira, currently plays for Jiangsu Suning of the Chinese Super League. He made his move to China from Shakhtar Donetsk of the Ukrainian Premier League. While in Ukraine, Teixeira saw great success. For Donetsk, he appeared 222 times, scoring 89 goals. To allow Teixeira to make his move to China, Jiangsu Suning had to pay an almost record (Asian) fee of $53.11 million. For his current side, Teixeira has made 40 appearances, scoring 18 goals as an attacking midfielder.

For his country of Brazil, Alex Teixeira has yet to break the full men's team. He has played for the U20 Brazilian national team, but has never played a true international game. It is unfortunate for him because of him club success, but Brazil is a very strong side that will be very hard for him to break into.

1 Hulk

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Givanildo Vieira de Sousa, best known as Hulk, holds the Asian transfer record. Making the move to his Chinese side, Shanghai SIPG, cost the club $59.98 million. The club receiving the money from the transfer was Zenit Saint Petersburg. For the Russian side, Hulk was very successful. He scored 75 goals in 144 appearances over four seasons. Over the course of his career, Hulk has been extremely successful, scoring a total of 238 goals in 427 club appearances. 

For his country (Brazil), Hulk has also been fairly successful. He has netted 14 goals in 46 appearances for his country. Hulk has formed a sort of 1-2 punch with Neymar on the Brazilian national team, making them an offensive force in international soccer. We will see if Hulk can have the same kind of success in China, but for now, we can only sit and wait.

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