Chelsea star Diego Costa enjoyed a goal scoring return against Hull City on 22 January. In turn, he helped to open up a huge gap for his club at the top of the Premier League table. It was a perfect riposte to the volatile rhetoric which preceded the game.
Multiple media outlets implying that a marquee move to China was imminent. Combined with his exclusion from the squad that won 3-0 at Leicester on 14 January, these rumours were even powerful enough to put most bookmakers’ Chelsea title odds in a flux.
Although the move never materialised, the threat of the Chinese Super League to the English game’s profile is now being taken seriously.
Already, Wayne Rooney and Yaya Toure have turned down confirmed approaches from the Far East, but this can only provoke other players into plotting a China-bound path.
Many factors motivate players such as Costa. While the sharp-shooting Spaniard has become known for his fiery temperament, he plays to win and conquer. With no spiritual connection to Chelsea, he would be easier than most to lure away from Stamford Bridge.
When pondering the pros and cons of such a big move, Costa has three main factors to consider. The first (and most obvious) of these is, of course…
Wages of around 600,000 GBP per week have been touted as a typical going rate for a top player in China, especially if he is arriving from the Premier League. With the highest Premier League wage currently at 290,000 GBP, it is a farce of a contest if money is to be the decisive factor.
Verdict: China without question.
That noted, the long-term implications, if such wages were available at the severe expense of lesser players, could be dire for Chinese football in a wider context. In football, all good teams consist of eleven players, not one player and ten nobodies.
The Chinese Super League already offers a good array of head coaches and opposition strikers. By contrast, the defences of opposition teams in the lower reaches of the division remain works in progress. Ultimately, this does not bode well for any attacking player with significant development ahead.
A move to China will do no harm to a player in his late twenties or early thirties. It may even be a revelation for a highly-decorated player from England. But, for the likes of Marcus Rashford and Jesse Lingard, moving to the Super League would presently be career suicide. It would also put paid to any future ambitions of captaining the national side.
Here in England, Antonio Conte’s side is now developing a unity and maturity which will serve Costa (and the club) well in next season’s Champions League.
A Champions League runner up in 2013-14 with Athletico Madrid, 28-year old Costa’s opportunities to seize club football’s most coveted prize are running thin. He should resist a move for at least two or three years.
Good leaders on the pitch do not necessarily make good leaders in the technical area. A footballer’s career is desperately short, and it takes a quite different set of skills to become an effective manager. For one thing, the English game now requires good diplomacy and shrewd spin. Meanwhile, China remains relatively virgin territory where PR and image is concerned.
There is also a greater learning mentality in the Chinese Super League, particularly among the less celebrated members every squad. By contrast, Egos driven by money and ambition have long been a fixture in the English game.
The growing lure of the Chinese Super League can only exacerbate this situation. As a repercussion, it can only become harder for new managers to break into the Premier League.
Being a professional from the Premier League leading by example, the transition into management would ultimately be smoother for Costa in China. For reasons already noted, he would also have greater license to vent his natural, passion-fuelled anger in China.
Verdict: Decisively, China.
Away from the Premier League, Costa has a more willing set of charges awaiting him in the Far East.
The Super League certainly appears a far better prospect for Costa five years from now. However, in the shorter term, the familiarity of the Premier League could prove decisive in the looming war to keep Costa at Stamford Bridge.
Inevitable though a summer bid from China is, Chelsea FC is on the verge of securing of a fifth Premier League title. This gives Diego Costa much to ponder.
Tamhas has a unique knack for turning football-related pub talk into a highbrow HoC debate. After murdering someone in a previous life, he now supports Everton. A graduate in Sports Broadcast Journalism from Staffordshire University in 2013, he boasts almost a decade of sports writing experience.
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