How have the CSL’s greatest stars adapted to their new life?

There are moments in the life of a football player which requires the utmost dedication, the ability to see the wider picture and the need to adapt to sudden change.

Transfers are part and parcel of modern football. The most recognised names look to the elite super agents who control the technicalities of their future destiny with a keen eye for money and marketing rights.

Player power has never been more significant, and with a footballing universe showered in money, the game has expanded to new areas of the world.

There is one country though who have not only erupted from the abyss but have shaped the dynamic of the transfer market through their sudden rise on football’s geographical map. No surprise to hear that it is China.

For the last 15 years, some of the world’s most talented players have decided to move halfway around the world to earn their trade in the Chinese Super League, founded in 2002, and looking to match that of the top divisions in Europe and South America.

Around seventy years ago it was almost impossible to believe that players could transfer between clubs across the same continent, but now multi-million-pound deals occur across different continents, largely down to the rise of football in the USA and now China.

There is one difference though. While footballers from George Best and Franz Beckenbauer to Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard have viewed the US as somewhat of a retirement home, players in their prime are now moving to China.

The Chinese project is one which concentrates on the needs for those elite super-agents. Marketing and money are ever-present, and those attractions have almost become a magnet to players in Europe and South America who want to make a name for themselves in another dimension.

Adapting to a completely different culture and environment can be challenging, some though find it easier than others.

Here are the stories of a few of the top talents on how they adapted to a new life in China.

Carlos Tevez

When Carlos Tevez moved from Boca Juniors to Shanghai Shenhua last December, he became the world’s most expensive footballer on £615,000 a week.

Since then the Argentine has not coped particularly well to the new lifestyle, with manager Gus Poyet saying that Tevez struggled with the local cuisine so much that at the beginning of his career he almost did not eat anything.

Tevez’s insecurity off the pitch, including his lack of confidence in understanding the language, has spread onto the field, with the striker dropped just last week after a run of just two goals in 11 games.

Booed by his home fans, Tevez has had to hire an interpreter to talk with some of his team-mates, a problem for the striker as he is only one of three players in the squad to originate from South America.

So it would not be surprising to see Tevez move back to Argentina or even retire from the game if he continues this trend. He may be a lot richer after his transfer to China but is definitely a worse player because of it.

Ezequiel Lavezzi

Ezequiel Lavezzi recently joined Hebei CFFC from Paris Saint Germain, and although hampered by injury has netted nine times in 25 games.

After settling in Hebei, a northern Chinese province near Beijing, Lavezzi took to adapt his lifestyle to mix in with a culture unfamiliar to him.

Then in May earlier this year, the Argentine involved in a photo CSL photo session, in which he pulled his eyes back in one photo, what was viewed as a racist gesture.

This prompted a huge backlash on social media, with Chinese people and others accusing Lavezzi of racism. The winger has since apologised for the incident, and will no doubt start from where he left off on the pitch.

Off the field, he may have to be more careful, and the photo incident will serve as a harsh lesson.

Renato Augusto

Renato Augusto has become one of the most open speaking players who has moved to China, willing to share his opinions on the difficulties that he has faced adapting to the CSL.

Augusto admits the financial offer was great and has said that at first, he received a lot of criticism, with people saying that if he played in the CSL, he would lose his place in the Brazil team.

At first, the midfielder struggled with the smog and the food but over time managed to settle in his new environment, with Beijing Guoan improving the gym facilities to accommodate the needs of the player.

Augusto has persuaded both Oscar and Hulk to earn their trade in the CSL, and if he can continue to do that, then China’s football brand will become stronger than before.


Oscar is surely the most famous footballer to have moved to the CSL after his record £60m move from Chelsea to Shanghai Shenhua last summer.

Even though the Brazilian received a title winners medal at the end of last season, the reality is Oscar has personally struggled on the field, scoring just one goal in his 16 appearances.

These problems culminated in a mass brawl when Shanghai entertained Guangzhou R&F two months ago, Oscar sparking chaos after he kicked the ball directly at two Guangzhou players from very close range.

Two players Li Tixiang and Fu Huan were sent off, and Oscar was subsequently banned for eight matches.

If the playmaker can put this behind him, then a successful career in the CSL may occur but the brawl is certainly a stain on Oscar’s CV.


Earlier this year, Paulinho had messed up. There was the Brazilian in China advertising a betting site alongside a Japanese porn star.

It would be one of the very few mistakes that the Brazilian would make though, and from talk of deportation, he would restore credibility to his career in some fashion.

In all, he netted 25 times in 95 games, an impressive return from a midfielder some of which were long distance attempts which took the breath out of stadia.

Paulinho’s consistent performances in midfield bring power and authority to Guangzhou, and the ability to dictate tempo and drive forward has galvanised a team who have won two CSL titles and one Asian Champions League.

Since leaving Europe he has not only shone in Asia, he has also returned to the Brazil national team. Paulinho had last played for them at the 2014 World Cup, but instead of China becoming a curse for players’ opportunities on the international stage, the league has provided the platform for Paulinho to return to Barcelona.

Out of all of the foreign stars to play in the CSL Paulinho is the biggest success story. It’s a legacy which could prove mightily significant.