Leaving the western world behind for a late-career adventure in China isn’t for every professional footballer, that much is for certain after the last few years of mega-money transfers to the Chinese Super League.
The key, according to recently arrived midfielder Mousa Dembele, is to embrace the “culture shock” of living in a place that feels like “a different world.”
“If you come here only for the money and you don’t enjoy the experience and lock yourself away in your hotel then it’s bad,” he says. Unlike some players who appear to move to China without considering the adjustments required in their everyday lives, Dembele says he actively sought out that kind of challenge for himself and his young family and that they’re enjoying themselves after making the transition.
“But people who know me know I never regret my choices. It’s a shame for me but I didn’t regret it for one second.”
“Money is a thing in moving here, of course. People who come here earn good money but it depends. If you earn good money and you enjoy the culture then it’s a good experience.
“I told the players at Tottenham that in the last few years of my career I wanted to go to a different country. When China came, I was happy because it’s a big challenge and I wanted to have a culture shock.
“It’s very different, including how the people react to you in daily life. It depends how you are as a personality. I know a lot of people who come here and think it’s rubbish and hate it but if you’re open-minded it’s very cool.
“It’s so funny to think the plane ride is ‘only’ about 12 hours but it’s a different world when you get here – and it’s totally different on the pitch as well.”
“I’m here with my wife and kids. My kids are young – four and two – and they enjoy it because they have a nice set-up, they can swim a lot. They look at everything positively.
“For my wife at the beginning it was a bit difficult because she loved London. The language is hard but now she really enjoys it. It’s always negative to be a bit far from your family but she enjoys the rest of it.”
The world may never know how well, or unwell, Gareth Bale and his family would have adjusted and enjoyed life in China, as the Real Madrid star’s proposed move to CSL side Jiangsu Suning was canceled by the La Liga club’s directors on Sunday.