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Chinese Super League

Where are they now? 13 former Chinese Super League stars who are still playing their way into the headlines

Gervinho and Jackson Martinez prove post China careers can continue while network of Chinese-owned clubs worldwide offers another way out

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 25 September, 2018, 8:01am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 25 September, 2018, 9:04am

Dario Conca signing for Austin Bold FC is proof there is life after the Chinese Super League and the untold riches it offers.

So what happened next for other high profile, highly paid players when they were deemed surplus to requirements in China?

There’s plenty of evidence it no longer has to be a backwards step for a football career – or off the pitch moves – for those that keep playing once they leave the CSL.

Gervinho – Parma

The Ivorian moved to newly promoted Serie A side Parma in the summer and has since scored a wonder goal for the Chinese-owned Italian club.

Gervinho took the ball from near his own penalty area against Cagliari last Saturday before a calm finish off the post after dribbling nearly the length of the pitch. Needless to say, like Paulinho’s performances at Barcelona last season before returning to Guangzhou Evergrande, this came as a shock to football fans from north London.

Jackson Martinez – Portimonense

The Colombian striker had a torrid time at Guangzhou Evergrande with injuries limiting his appearances and then being down the pecking order when finally fit. This ended with a loan move to Portimonense in Portugal this September. The gangly hitman has been keeping himself busy tough and used his Twitter to promote a rap album dedicated to his beliefs as a Christian.

Didier Drogba – Phoenix Rising

Now owns Phoenix Rising in the USL along with investors such as Diplo and Fall Out Boy’s Pete Wentz. He is the only one of the owners that plays for the club, though. Drogba’s former Shanghai Shenhua teammate Nicolas Anelka has since hung up his boots but returned to play at the top level in Europe after his time in China.

Axel Witsel – Borussia Dortmund

Recently won the Bundesliga goal of the month for August after scoring with a scissor kick on his debut. Missed top level football during his time in China, he told Bild earlier and that he is willing to be a leader. He will meet former Liaoning Whowin man Anthony Ujah when Mainz meet Dortmund in the league in November.

Richmond Boakye – Red Star Belgrade

The Ghana striker has swapped the Chinese Super League for the Uefa Champions League this season after leaving Jiangsu Suning for a return to Red Star Belgrade just six months after moving to Nanjing.

Carlos Tevez – Boca Juniors

No one really knows the cost of Carlitos to his Chinese club. Tevez lasted 66 minutes of what is rumoured to be his last ever Superclasico game between Boca Juniors and great rivals River Plate on Monday morning (Hong Kong time). He has struggled for goals since returning from his all expenses paid holiday in Shanghai and has become an increasingly isolated figure at the Bombonera.

Freddy Montero – Sporting Lisbon

The Colombia striker went to the Vancouver Whitecaps in the MLS and is now back with former club Sporting Lisbon. Backs a third-wave coffee culture cafe in Seattle, where he remains the Seattle Sounders top scorer. The Sounders retain a CSL connection with Swedish lad and Kim Kee-hee while Montero lines up with Nemanja Gudelj, the Serbia midfielder on loan from Guangzhou Evegrande.

Ruben Castro – Las Palmas

Now 37, Castro has hit six goals in six games for Las Palmas in La Liga 2. He’s joined at the club by Cala, the former Henan Jianye defender. Ex-Chongqing Lifan man Nicolas Aguirre is also in the Spanish second tier with Granada, the club owned by his former CSL club’s chairman Jiang Lizhang. In the division above Gael Kakuta, once of Hebei China Fortune, plays with Rayo Vallecano and Brown Ideye is on loan at Malaga from Tianjin Teda.

Tim Cahill – Jamshedpur

The Australian is still playing in India after stints with Melbourne Victory back home and former club Millwall in England. He is 38 now and in line for one last Socceroos send-off before concentrating on playing for Jamshedpur. Cahill has been busy off the pitch with children’s books and a clothing line among his side projects.

Jo – Nagoya Grampus Eight

Brazilian league top scorer on return to Corinthians and then banging the goals in since moving from there to Nagoya Grampus Eight in the J.League. Peter Utaka, the Nigeria striker once of Dalian Aerbin, Beijing Guoan and Shanghai Shenxin, is in the division below with Tokushima Vortis.

Momo Sissoko – Kitchee

Kitchee called and the former Liverpool and Juventus midfielder answered to add Hong Kong to Indonesia and China (with Shanghai Shenhua) to his CV. Another former CSL player in the Hong Kong Premier League is Jean Jacques Kilama, who has signed for Tai Po after a season with Pegasus since leaving Tianjin Quanjian.

Vagner Love – Besiktas

Won Brazilian Serie A with Corinthians, then moved to Monaco and Alanyaspor before moving to Besiktas. He’s one of a number of former CSL players still doing the business in the Turkish Super Lig including Robinho (Sivasspor), Burak Yilmaz (Trabzonspor), Papiss Cisse (Alanyaspor) and Asamoah Gyan at Kayserispor.

Alsessandro Diamanti – Livorno

The cult West Ham hero shone in China and is still going in Serie B at 35 with Livorno.