Following his move to Shandong Lenung in the Chinese Super League on Monday, Graziano Pelle is now the joint-fifth best paid player on the planet.
Let that sink in for a moment.
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Now, I am not knocking Pelle, far from it. He scored 30 goals in 81 appearances for Southampton over the past two seasons and the bustling forward who turns 31 this week shone for Italy at EURO 2016. Well, apart from that penalty kick against Germany…
Whatever you think about Pelle’s move, it confirms the CSL’s huge spending power as four of the top 10 best paid players on the planet now play in China’s top-flight, according to a list compiled by Tancredi Palmeri.
A player like Pelle just can’t turn down the sums of money on offer even if it means his international future with Italy is hampered and he will no longer play in the global spotlight of the PL for Southampton or another team with both Chelsea and Everton linked with him this summer. Yet, the riches of the CSL was too good to turn down. He was a player at his peak after a stunning EURO 2016 campaign and his decision to cash in now and earn a reported $45 million over the next 30 months is one most would surely make given the opportunity.
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With President Xi pushing China to get behind soccer with new academies and an emphasis on improving facilities, many state owned companies are bankrolling these CSL teams. Yes, some of the players they have bought are coming towards the end of their careers but the likes of Hulk, Alex Teixeira, Jackson Martinez, Paulinho and Gervinho are definitely not.
Many will say they’re giving up the UEFA Champions League and playing in the top leagues in Europe for money and they’re probably right. The CSL’s average attendance is growing at just over 20,000 and with foreign giants coming to play in China each preseason, the appetite for the game is continuing to grow, especially as the government devotes more money to its development with a dream of one day hosting the FIFA World Cup.
That extreme wealth means we may not see the end of this spending and this may just be the start. Despite the CSL currently having a rule of just four overseas players per team, plus another from a fellow Asian Football Confederation nation, it still continues to attract interest from players and to coaches as Luiz Felipe Scolari, Sven-Goran Eriksson and Felix Magath are all currently coaching in the CSL.
So, here’s a look at the top 10 best paid players in the world with regards to their pure salary paid by the club.
Of course, Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar all earn many more millions in endorsement deals and sponsorship but the huge strides China is making in attracting the top talent in world soccer is making everyone sit up and take note.
Highest 10 paid soccer players (Jul, 12, 2016)
1. Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid) = $446,000 per week
2. Lionel Messi (Barcelona) = $427,000
2. Hulk (Shanghai SIPG) = $427,000
4. Neymar (Barcelona) = $407,000
5. Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Manchester United) = $341,000
5. Graziano Pelle (Shandong Luneng) = $341,000
7. Thomas Muller (Bayern Munich) = $289,000
8. Ezequiel Lavezzi (Hebei China Fortune) = $275,000
9. Jackson Martinez (Guangzhou Evergrande Taobao) = $262,000
10. Thiago Silva (PSG) = $256,000