The Chinese Super League has grown tremendously over the past decade with heavy financial backing for many clubs enabling to become a major player in Asian football. With vast swathes of money at their disposal, Chinese clubs have spent big in order to attract many big stars to their clubs in a quest for glory. Players from around Asia, Europe and South America have all made the move east in a bid to win trophies and opportunities that might have bypassed them elsewhere. But who has proven their worth to their owners and given back to the investment that their club has made? Here are the best foreign players in the Chinese Super League at the moment.
Best foreign players in the Chinese Super League
Kim Min-Jae (Beijing Guoan)
If you have a defender whose nickname is “Monster”, then you know they have a presence about them. It is a term that has befitted South Korea’s Kim Min-Jae, whose reputation as a physical powerhouse and aerial prowess has made him one of the best centre-backs in all of Asian football.
He is also adept with his passing and is quicker than most other players in his role, meaning that the “Monster” has been given nightmares to opposition strikers for much of the past two seasons since he joined Beijing Guoan. Many European clubs have kept a close eye on him but for now, the “Monster” is comfortable stopping attacks dead for one of China’s most successful clubs. One of the best foreign players in the Chinese Super League, if not the best known.
Paulinho (Guangzhou Evergrande)
During his time at Spurs and Barcelona, Paulinho played as a deep-lying midfielder where he was treated more like a playmaker than a goalscorer. A first stint in the CSL with Guangzhou Evergrande produced promising results but it is his second stint where the Brazilian has come into his own as a superstar.
Since re-joining from Barcelona in 2018, he has been nigh on unstoppable playing in a more advanced role and becoming their main set-piece wizard. With a thunderbolt of a shot and good awareness around the final third, Paulinho has scored 32 goals in the past two seasons including a best return of 19 goals in 29 games during the 2019 season. This form earned him the league’s MVP award in 2019 and making him one of the biggest stars in the entire league.
Elkeson/Ai Kesen (Guangzhou Evergrande)
One of the first Brazilians to make the move to China, Elkeson has become one of the most successful overseas stars in the history of the CSL. Arriving in China with Guangzhou Evergrande in 2013, Elkeson destroyed defences, scoring 52 goals in his first two seasons with the club thanks to excellent finishing and blistering pace. A move to Shanghai SIPG wasn’t so fruitful but a return to Guangzhou allowed him to find his comfort zone again scoring 11 goals in 18 games in the 2019 season.
With no call-ups from the Brazil national team, Elkeson took up Chinese nationality changing his name to Ai Kesen debuting for the China national team in 2019. With 4 league titles under his belt, the Brazilian striker is one of the most decorated overseas stars in Chinese football.
Alex Teixeira (Jiangsu Suning)
Alex Teixeira shocked many in the football world when he chose to move to Jiangsu Suning in 2016 from Shakhtar Donetsk, spurning interest from several major European clubs. The Brazilian’s big money move initially failed to take off as fitness issues and injuries hampered his form but things could be on the up given a recent turnaround in form.
Teixeira has rediscovered his eye for goal, scoring 18 in 30 matches in 2019 eclipsing his previous best by quite some margin. A strong presence on the ball combined with pace has made him a threat throughout his career and his re-discovered passion could be just what he needs to show why he is worth the big bucks.
Marouane Fellaini (Shandong Luneng)
Despite shaving his characteristic afro, Fellaini is still one of the most recognizable players on the pitch but the midfielder has never been much of a goalscorer, until now. The Belgian international scored 11 goals in 25 appearances for Shandong Luneng since joining in 2019 matching the total he scored for Manchester United over a period of 6 years at Old Trafford in the English Premier League.
Still showcasing his defensive and aerial abilities on regular occasions, the added finishing touch has made Fellaini one of the most complete midfielders in the CSL and shows that he is still playing at his very best heading into his mid-30s. Often derided in England, Fellaini has become one of the best foreign players in the Chinese Super League.
Giovanni Moreno (Shanghai Shenhua)
One of the more underrated foreign players in the CSL, Giovanni Moreno has proven himself to be one of the most creative forces in the entire league. Having been around in the CSL since 2012, the Colombian winger has bamboozled defences with silky skills and constant goal threat.
Moreno is also a master from set-pieces, regularly scoring free-kicks and penalties for Shanghai season after season. Being one of the most consistent performers on the pitch, Moreno has been captain of Shanghai for several seasons and has proven that foreign players can enjoy a successful career in Chinese football for years at a time.
Marko Arnautovic (Shanghai SIPG)
In a move that had been hyped for months, Marko Arnautovic swapped London for Shanghai in 2019 when he finally completed his high-profile transfer to Shanghai SIPG from West Ham and he hasn’t looked back since. The Austrian winger has proven himself to be one of the top attractions in the CSL scoring 9 goals in just 11 games after joining halfway through the season.
His pace, power and finishing ability has left defences puzzled on multiple occasions and has allowed Arnautovic to become a potent threat to one of the most dangerous attacks in the entire league.
Oscar (Shanghai SIPG)
Once one of Chelsea’s brightest talents, Oscar’s time at Stamford Bridge was one of inconsistency so it wasn’t surprising to see him make a switch to Shanghai SIPG in 2016. The Brazilian winger moved to China with a point to prove and he has often showcased the skillset that once had people around the world labelling him as the next big thing.
With excellent passing skills, flashy tricks and lots of pace, Oscar has often been one of the main players to unlock defences throughout China. Playing in a more central role than during his time in England, Oscar has become a more complete player making him a deadly force both on and off the ball.
Hulk (Shanghai SIPG)
When we think of Hulk, we think of someone who is an unstoppable force and the Brazilian is still very much that in the Chinese Super League. Since joining SIPG from Zenit St Petersburg 5 years ago, Hulk has been a consistent attacking presence scoring 46 goals in 87 appearances hitting double figure tallies in each season he has participated in.
More of a veteran presence in the side, Hulk has become an extremely smart player who can shift his role to fit the team he plays in allowing him to be a striker, winger or attacking midfielder. By becoming a versatile player anywhere in the final third, Hulk is still proving that he is still worthy of being a headline attraction to fans across Chinese football.
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