China bonanza lures PSG's Lavezzi

BEIJING • Paris Saint-Germain's Argentinian forward Ezequiel Lavezzi has signed with Hebei China Fortune, making the 30-year-old the latest European-based footballer drawn to China by jaw-dropping sums.

Hebei described him as "the next Maradona" on a verified social media account. The Chinese club did not disclose a transfer fee, but previous British press reports said Lavezzi would earn £23.5 million (S$33.6 million) over two years.

"His arrival will make the team's attack more incisive. We look forward to him showing off his brave spirit," Hebei added.

Website transfermarkt, which tracks commercial developments in the sport, gave the transfer fee as €5.5 million (S$8.6 million).

Hebei are owned by a Beijing-based developer of industrial parks, founded by billionaire Wang Wenxue.

At the club, Lavezzi will join Ivorian striker Gervinho, who signed for €18 million in January, along with Cameroon captain and former Marseille centre-back Stephane Mbia.

Lavezzi joined PSG in 2012 for €30 million from Napoli and has scored 22 goals in 107 French Ligue One games, but has been used mainly as a substitute this season, with just three league starts.

The current transfer window shuts on Feb 26 in China, and has already seen big-money moves by Brazilians Alex Teixeira and Ramires, along with Colombia's Jackson Martinez, to join the cash-rich China Super League.

The Chinese transfer fee record has been smashed no fewer than four times in the current transfer window, culminating in Jiangsu Suning paying Shakhtar Donetsk €50 million for Teixeira.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 18, 2016, with the headline 'China bonanza lures PSG's Lavezzi'. Print Edition | Subscribe