Players explore the final frontiers

It's not just ageing footballers who go abroad these days – China and India offer chances for those with open minds and empty wallets

Whether or not Sir Dave Richards is right that Sheffield rather than China is the true home of football, neither of the city's two professional clubs has ever been in a position to pay a player £175,000 per week.

That is the sum Shanghai Shenhua are believed to be shelling out on Nicolas Anelka, who joined them from Chelsea three months ago in one of the January window's most significant transfers.

It illustrated not only the range of options for players as the world market opens up, but also that the money is available in places like China and Russia to attract marquee signings of the standing of Anelka and Samuel Eto'o, the Cameroon striker who is being paid even more in the brave new world of Anzhi Makhachkala. This weekend, Rio Ferdinand and Fernando Torres respectively have been linked with a move to those countries.

As well as China, there are now leagues in Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand, all looking for players. The proposed Indian Premier League, taking after the cricket version, will not happen after all this season, but the official I-League is in the market too. So are traditional destinations such as Australia and the United States, while Joe Cole in France, Scott Carson in Turkey and Michael Mancienne in Germany have proved there is still a welcome in Europe for English players not yet in their dotage.

A less celebrated team-mate of Anelka's is his compatriot Mathieu Manset, a striker on loan from Reading, for whom he appeared 29 times. "I'm excited to be going to a new country, I'll learn new things about football and when I come back I'll be ready to play here and score goals," he said.

Football in China, effectively banned under the Cultural Revolution of 1966, revived in the mid-Seventies with gimmicks like bonus points for headed goals, and peaked when the national team reached Fifa's top 40 in 1998 under Londoner Bob Houghton and qualified for the 2002 World Cup.

They have not done so since, but many observers believe that, as with India, population figures alone will make the countries a force now that widespread TV coverage of English and Spanish football is increasing enthusiasm for the game.

"You can't ignore the numbers – it's just a matter of time," says Francisco Marcos, a Portuguese who has been involved in football in the USA for almost 45 years. He believes the Statesalways has an appeal for British players – all the more so after the success of David Beckham and Robbie Keane – but adds: "I have friends in China, coaches from Portugal, and they say that the money's there now."

It clearly is for the super-rich running clubs such as Shanghai and their big rivals Guangzhou Evergrande, who signed the former Premier League players Zheng Zhi (Charlton) and Cho Won-hee (Wigan) and won the championship last year to reach the Asian Champions' League.

Marcos says: "Once China qualifies for a couple more World Cups, it's gonna happen. And the same with India, an emerging country that will provide markets for players from everywhere. For English players India's a natural, easier than China because of language and cultural similiarities."

Kenny Moyes, the brother of Everton's manager David, is well aware of that. As managing director of the football agency Libero, he is negotiating to take three or four players there at the end of the season to follow in the footsteps of Alan Gow, the former Scotland B midfielder who played in front of 80,000 crowds for Kingfisher East Bengal in their big local derbies this season. Gow has returned to Britain with Exeter City, joining Rohan Ricketts, another adventurer who has played in Canada, Hungary and Moldova.

"India's a great place to play, once they're used to the heat," Moyes said. "I've been an agent now for 16 years and there's definitely a shift with all these markets emerging, paying professional salaries."

The Indian Premier League was due to recruit players such as Robbie Fowler and Robert Pires and although the established I-League would welcome a marquee player or two to improve its profile, Moyes thinks the opportunities are essentially for younger men.

"It's not like it used to be going to America for a last pay-day," he says. "They want fit and healthy 25 to 30-year-olds. And they'll pay Championship-type salaries. Players need to have an understanding of the culture, but it's a brilliant place to be, especially Kolkata, which is a real hotbed of football. I see the kids there playing football inthe streets 20-a-side like the old days here."

Moyes has also taken Stuart Duff, formerly of Dundee United and Aberdeen, to Kazakhstan, neighbours of Dagestan, where Blackburn's Chris Samba and Chelsea's Yuri Zhirkov joined one of the few owners anywhere in the world with almost as much money as Roman Abramovich in Anzhi's Suleyman Kerimov. For security reasons they still live and train in Moscow, flying 1,500 miles to every "home" game.

There is less sense of danger in Thailand and Hong Kong, where Zesh Rehman, formerly of Fulham, Queens Park Rangers and Bradford City, enjoyed playing so much he recommends it to anyone prepared to travel with an open mind.

"I had a wonderful year in the Thai Premier League," he said. "I learned a new language, embraced a new culture and got to play in front of passionate crowds in different countries in the AFC Cup. I'm now enjoying Hong Kong, which is a vibrant place to live. It's very tough now in England for out-of-contract players, so moving abroad is a viable option."

There have never been more varied opportunities for those bold enough to seize them.

News
peopleHowards' Way actress, and former mistress of Jeffrey Archer, was 60
Sport
Romelu Lukaku puts pen to paper
sport
News
Robyn Lawley
people
Arts and Entertainment
Unhappy days: Resistance spy turned Nobel prize winner Samuel Beckett
books
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
people
Life and Style
Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson voice the show’s heroes
gamingOnce stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover
News
i100
Life and Style
Phones will be able to monitor your health, from blood pressure to heart rate, and even book a doctor’s appointment for you
techCould our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?
News
people
Extras
indybest
Travel
Ryan taming: the Celtic Tiger carrier has been trying to improve its image
travelRyanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?
Sport
Usain Bolt confirms he will run in both the heats and the finals of the men's relay at the Commonwealth Games
commonwealth games
Life and Style
Slim pickings: Spanx premium denim collection
fashionBillionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers 'thigh-trimming construction'
News
Sabina Altynbekova has said she wants to be famous for playing volleyball, not her looks
people
News
i100
Life and Style
tech'World's first man-made leaves' could use photosynthesis to help astronauts breathe
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star