Monday 27 May 2019

Counting the Costa of big money moves

Weird Wide World of Sport

Diego Costa celebrates after being told what sort of salary he could command in China
Diego Costa celebrates after being told what sort of salary he could command in China

Dave Devereux

I brought the kids to the pantomime the other day. 'Oh no you didn't.' 'Oh yes I did.' Maybe it's time to get my coat.

It probably wasn't the best place for me to be, considering I had been out for a few pints the previous evening and was nursing an ever-so-slightly sore head.

Nothing like an auditorium jam-packed with happy-clappy, screaming kids to blow away the cobwebs of the night before.

I'm sure you'll be delighted to hear we had a wonderful time at 'Beauty and the Beast', although I was slightly concerned I might be mistaken for one of the title characters given my hungover appearance. No prizes for guessing which one.

Speaking of leading roles, there's no doubting who the pantomime villain is in the sporting world this week, with that old rogue Diego Costa hitting the headlines for the wrong reasons yet again.

Costa's head has apparently being turned by an astronomical £30 million a year offer from China, leading to him being dropped for Chelsea's 3-0 win away to champions Leicester City on Saturday, although a back injury was the questionable official reason given for the striker's omission from the squad.

It looks now like the Brazilian-born, Spanish international will stick it out in London until the end of the season, and if he does help to fire Conte's men to the Premier League title, the player that opposition fans love to hate can at least leave Stamford Bridge with his brooding head held slightly high.

Of course, if Costa does opt to follow the money he'd be in good company, with the likes of well-known mercenaries Carlos Tevez and Hulk plying their trade in the land of ridiculous salaries.

Tevez is a decent performer, and has shown his worth at top clubs, but there's no way he should be the best-paid player in world football, earning a reputed £615,000 per week at Shanghai Shenhua.

That said, if some media mogul offered me a king's ransom to write a weekly column in a Chinese newspaper I'd be gone quicker than I could order a Kung Pao Chicken.

The problem is I don't speak Chinese. Double Dutch maybe but certainly not Chinese.

In time the quality of the Chinese Super League will improve, but for now it's a long way behind the top European Leagues and the move to allow teams to play only three foreign players per game will surely scupper their hopes of world domination.

Players like Costa and his ilk have to leave behind the ambition of winning a highly sought after prize like the Champions League in favour of being a big fish in the Far East.

Chinese football does pose a greater threat to long-established European leagues than the likes of the MLS, which is seen as a retirement home for ageing footballers on the wane. Clubs in China seem determined to sign players at their peak, with 25-year-old Oscar recently moving to Shanghai SIPG, and his former team-make Costa still has plenty to offer in the elite competitions, so it's up to each individual to decide whether they're motivated by money or want to make the most of their talents and make a real impact on the beautiful game at the top level.

Despite throwing wads of cash around like confetti, it's unlikely that China will become the footballing superpower that the powers-that-be crave, although it's easy to see why some players will be lured to it like a fly to a steaming pile of cow dung.

As young boys most future stars will have dreamed of playing for Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, AC Milan or Manchester United, but a footballer's career is a short one, so if they're principally driven by money, which many are, it's a no-brainer to head for the fortunes in the Far East.

However, in pantomime parlance, if Diego Costa does jump ship to the get his mucky paws on the filthy lucre that's on offer in China, there's only one place that his career as a competitive footballer with a hunger for honours will be.

It's behind you!

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