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Footballers in China

In recent years, China has proven to be a lucrative destination for many footballers still in their prime, making the move from the continent to the Chinese Super League. The gulf in class between Europe’s biggest divisions and the Super League is substantial, where the vast majority of these players would be better off moving back to European clubs and playing more competitive football. You can find today’s football betting odds on Betfair, with teams in China coming up to the halfway stage of their season. Here, we list four footballers that joined the CSL and should return to European football.

Oscar (Shanghai SIPG)

The Brazilian midfielder joined Shanghai SIPG for £60 million in January 2017, leaving the Premier League and Chelsea behind. With the Blues, he won the two titles the League Cup and the Europa League and since making the move to China, he’s won the League, ending Guangzhou Evergrande's seven-year reign as champions. He moved at the age of 25, when clubs such as Atlético Madrid, Juventus and AC Milan were interested in him. Now 27, surely someone in Europe would want to take a chance on him, despite not featuring for his national side since moving to Asia. He’s contracted to Shanghai SIPG until the end of 2020.

Marek Hamšík (Dalian Yifang)

He may have only joined the Chinese Super League in February 2019 from Serie A side Napoli, but there’s no doubt that Marek Hamšík’s talent is wasted in Asia. The 31-year-old moved for €20m and is under contract until the end of 2021. The midfielder spent over a decade in Naples, becoming the club’s leading goal scorer and record appearance holder (121 goals in 520 appearances). Juventus’ domination of the division means Hamšík never won the league, but he won the Coppa Italia twice, also claiming he would have stayed with the club if they challenged for the Scudetto. As long as he plays for his country (for which he currently captains), he’ll remain on the radar of European clubs.

Yannick Carrasco (Dalian Yifang)

The 25-year-old winger has been linked with a number of European clubs including Arsenal and Bayern Munich, but current club Dalian Yifang are looking for a fee of £25 million, which may rule the Gunners out. Carrasco joined the Super League in February 2018 from Spanish club Atlético Madrid and a fee of £36 million, in a move that shocked a lot of fans. An explanation for his move? Dalian Yifang are owned by Wanda Group, partial owners of Atléti. Life in China clearly isn’t what it’s cracked up to be with Carrasco declaring his desire to return to the continent - despite being contracted to the Asian club until the end of 2022. Watch this space.

Odion Ighalo (Shanghai Greenland Shenhua)

Ighalo has been plying his trade in the Chinese Super League since leaving Watford in January 2017, first playing for Changchun Yatai, before transferring to current club SG Shenhua in February. Having recently turned 30, there’s no doubting that the Nigerian striker has a handful of years left in him and at the turn of the year, was hinting at a return to the Premier League. He also revealed that he turned down Barcelona to continue his career in the CSL, because he didn’t want a short-term loan move as a back-up striker - instead, opting for a three-year deal at Shenhua, set to expire at the end of 2021.

Is there anyone else we’ve missed off this list? Leave a comment below with your suggestions.

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