Obafemi Martins joins China exodus as former Newcastle striker signs for Shanghai Shenhua

The 31-year-old confirmed on Thursday he was leaving Seattle Sounders to join Shanghai Shenhua

Former Newcastle United and Birmingham City striker Obafemi Martins has become the latest high-profile player to move to the Chinese Super League.

The 31-year-old confirmed on Thursday he was leaving Seattle Sounders to join Shanghai Shenhua, the ambitious club who can already boast having Fredy Guarin and Demba Ba among their ranks.

Martins said: “For me it’s now time for a new challenge. After significant reflection, I have decided to join Shanghai Shenhua of the Chinese Super League. 

“When I left Nigeria for Italy at the age of 15 with the hopes of a pro career, I put everything on the line. I was immersed in an unknown culture.

“It may be difficult to understand or relate to but I’ve grown to appreciate the feeling I get when entering environments where I’m not a proven footballer.”

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Sven Goran-Eriksson, manager of Shanghai

Martins, who won the League Cup with Birmingham, follows in the footsteps of Jackson Martinez, Ramires, Alex Teixeira, Nikica Jelavic, Gervinho, Paulinho, Gael Kakuta and Asamoah Gyan to join Chinese sides.

Former England manager Sven-Goran Eriksson, now in charge at Shanghai, said recently money will continue to lure European-based players to Asia.

“You can’t take away the fact that money is the primary factor,” Eriksson said.

“The [Asian] Champions League used to be dominated by teams from Japan, South Korea and Australia, but Guangzhou Evergrande have won it in two of the past three seasons.

“Football is on the TV all the time here, not just the Premier League or the Champions League, but all the European leagues. It is an emerging league, which is why they are attracting such big names. There will be more to follow.

“The football is improving all the time and they are very ambitious with the national team. The biggest problem is the language because it is so difficult for Europeans to learn. In the big cities, such as Shanghai, it is easier because so many people speak English.

“Shanghai is a beautiful city, with theatres, shopping malls and restaurants that can rival anything in London.”

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