Clarence Seedorf drops Chinese Super League stars from first Cameroon squad as ‘good players don’t compete in China or Asia’

Former Shenzhen FC manager snubs China-based Christian Bassogog and Benjamin Moukandjo for his first game in charge of the Indomitable Lions

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 22 August, 2018, 4:22pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 22 August, 2018, 4:22pm

New Cameroon manager Clarence Seedorf has named his first squad since taking the job and the most notable exceptions are his two Chinese Super League-based stars with no place for Benjamin Moukandjo, of Beijing Renhe, or Christian Bassogog, of Henan Jianye.

Seedorf did not mince his words in explaining the decision to the assembled press, as reported by BBC Sport.

“Good young players don’t compete in China or in Asia,” he said.

“Players must understand that if they go after more lucrative contracts, then they forfeit their chances of playing in the national team.”

While he added that he was “not closing the door on anyone” it appears that he might be closing the door on those in China by his follow up statement: “We want disciplined and hard-working players and if someone is in the Middle East yet he can deliver for the team, we’ll bring him in.”

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Neither player made the squad for the match against Burkina Faso in May, the last time Cameroon played as they missed out on the World Cup.

Bassogog played earlier this year, scoring twice against Kuwait, but Moukandjo has not featured since 2017.

Neither is likely to feature until 2019, now, as barring a move before the European window closes at the end of the month, that would be the first time they can get a move to Europe after the Chinese Super League season ends and the winter transfer window opens.

Cameroon will have played four games by the turn of the year – starting with Seedorf’s bow against Comoros in an Afcon qualifier on September 8 – and by then his squad could be settled as the hosts look towards the tournament in March.

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The Indomitable Lions are also the holders of the continental crown, with Moukandjo captain and Bassogog part of the squad that lifted the trophy in Mali in 2017. Bassogog was named the player of the tournament and made the team of the tournament, while Moukandjo made the bench despite a man of the match performance in the final.

Bassogog is only 22 while Moukandjo, 29, has played at the World Cup.

The latter is also in goalscoring form for his club and struck again in the shock defeat of Chinese Super League leaders and city rivals Beijing Guoan last weekend.

Bassogog explained his move to China last year, explaining the challenge of raising the level of the local players both his teammates and the opposition players. He also confirmed he thinks of the CSL as a stepping stone in his career.

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“That is of more interest and relevance to me,” Bassogog added. “It is about rising to that challenge as a young player and knowing that, if I am successful in China, I would still be able to come to the very top levels of European football,” he told The Guardian.

Other players have already done it.

Paulinho to Barcelona is the highest profile but Axel Witsel has made the move from Tianjin Quanjian to Bundesliga side Borussia Dortmund and with it the biggest step up in his career. The German top flight is a lot stronger than the CSL and the Russian top flight, where he was with Zenit Saint Petersburg.

The signing of Witsel did nothing to delight Stefan Effenberg, a peer of Seedorf in the elite midfielders of the early years of this century.

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Effenberg remarked to Sport Bild that it reflected badly on the Bundesliga that Witsel was the highest profile signing of the summer because as good a player as the Belgian is he has not come from a top league and has never before played in one.

Clearly not everyone in football is as judgmental when it comes to the CSL.

Tite picked Renato Augusto in his Brazil squad for the World Cup this summer while Paulinho had been a key member of the team that romped to qualification while a Guangzhou Evergrande player.

Both Witsel and Yannick Carrasco were a key part of the Belgium squad that finished third in Russia, while Nigeria called upon captain Mikel Jon Obi and Odion Ighalo from the CSL, along with a couple of others.

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Seedorf was happy enough to take the money at Shenzhen, a team in the second division China League One not the CSL, as a manager. After he failed to deliver promotion to the top flight in 2016, finishing ninth, Seedorf and the club parted company.

Perhaps it is sour grapes over his time in China or perhaps it is just a belief that European football is the only yardstick worth a damn.

It is understandable that he wants his players playing in Europe as it was where he spent the lion’s share of his own career before a final swansong in Brazil with Botafogo. It’s also easier for him to keep track of their progress if they are all on the same continent.

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Fine as a goal but it seems narrow minded to rule those out that are not there right now, given their proven quality, to pick a squad that’s all Uefa-based.

Football is, we’re told, a game of opinions.

Former Cameroon striker Patrick Mboma gave his Jeune Afrique interview last week, questioning Seedorf and assistant Patrick Kluivert’s managerial CVs.

No one doubts Seedorf’s ability as a player – he remains the only one to have won the Champions League with three different clubs – but he still has a lot to prove as a manager after brief stints at AC Milan, Shenzhen and Deportivo La Coruna.

It’s his decision, he is entitled to it. But it’s a whole new ball game.