By Joe Apu
The ever bubbling European transfer season is abuzz with players crisscrossing clubs and smiling to the banks.
Since the 2017 season ended some weeks back, the market has witnessed many big names on the shopping list of the free spending clubs.
While Alvaro Morata said emotional goodbye to Real Madrid as he joined Chelsea on a five-year deal in club-record £65m transfer, Romelu Lukaku confirmed his move from Everton to Manchester United after he completed £75m transfer to become English football’s most expensive striker just as talks are nearing a finality regarding Barcelona’s Neymar being lured by PSG.
However, the buzz is not the same for Nigerian players as many would expect and this is because the big boys had already been traded in the January window.
Super Eagles captain, John Mikel Obi had been expected to head to a European team after he fell out of favour with Chelsea’s Antonio Conte but instead headed for Tianjin Teda in the Chinese League.
After spending 10 years at Chelsea, the 29 years old Super Eagle captain, turned down three other offers to join China’s Tianjin TEDA signing a three-year deal worth £140,000 a week.
Brown Ideye joined Mikel in quick succession to the Chinese Super League after joining Tianjin Teda. The 28-year-old left Greek club Olympiakos and signed a three-year deal.
Another Super Eagles striker former Watford forward Odion Ighalo completed £20m move to Chinese Super League side Changchun Yatai back earlier in the year.
The former Watford striker, who successfully netted 16 EPL goals in 37 matches, on January 31, completed his move to the CSL side, Changchua Yatai, for a whooping £20m as against his previous £8million earnings at Watford. That’s roughly $615,000 per week.
No doubt football remains a lucrative sport. Little wonder the game is adjudged to be the most popular sport in the world, boasting of about 3.5billion estimated fans across the globe.
Before now, the rush for Nigerian players used to be the top leagues in Europe especially the English Premier League, but so far, the tide has turned towards the Chinese Super League – the new goldfield for footballers especially those in a haste to leave warming up benches and players who place money above ambition.
Perhaps, the only few mentions that have linked Nigerian players in the English Premier League are those of Henry Onyekuru who was snapped up from Kas Eupen of Belgium to Everton.
The pacy 20-year-old has joined the Blues from Belgian side Eupen for an undisclosed fee after he signed a five-year contract until the end of June 2022 and Manchester City’s Kelechi Iheanacho expected to move to Leicester City for a fee of £25m.
With a reported fee in agreement for over two weeks now, the Leicester Mercury suggests the transfer is close to completion, as long as the medical and contract negotiations are handled successfully.
After returning from the Premier League Asia trophy, manager Craig Shakespeare will be keen to wrap up his fourth signing, with the English coach holding a long-term interest in the 20-year-old.
The delay in proceedings to announce his signature to fans at the King Power stadium was due to a serious dispute over Iheanacho’s image rights while he has been a Citizens player.
Aside from the big boys in China, there is also Super Falcons striker Asisat Oshoala. The 22 year-old Super Falcons striker, former Liverpool and Arsenal Ladies winger, completed her move to CSL’s Dalian Quanjian. Just a year after joining Arsenal Queens, the 2016 African Women’s Player of the Year Asisat now receives N7million monthly in her Chinese super league side.
Former Super Eagles striker Obafemi Martins completes the Chinese story of Nigerians in the league. The erstwhile Inter Milan, Newcastle and Birmingham City striker in February 2016 completed his move to Shanghai Greenland Shenhua. The 32 year-old former left MLS Seattle Sounders FC to China in 2016 to earn $6.6million per annum.