Tianjin Teda sign Mikel in big-money deal

Nigeria midfielder John Obi Mikel (in green) during the 2018 FIFA World Cup African zone group B qualifying football match between Nigeria and Algeria on Nov 12, 2016. Mikel has become the latest big-name player to join the Chinese Super League gold
Nigeria midfielder John Obi Mikel (in green) during the 2018 FIFA World Cup African zone group B qualifying football match between Nigeria and Algeria on Nov 12, 2016. Mikel has become the latest big-name player to join the Chinese Super League gold rush.PHOTO: AFP

BEIJING • Nigeria midfielder John Obi Mikel has become the latest big-name player to join the Chinese Super League gold rush after leaving Chelsea for Tianjin Teda.

Mikel, who failed to make a single appearance for Antonio Conte's side this season, spent more than a decade at Stamford Bridge and was part of a squad that won a Champions League trophy, the Europa League, two Premier League titles and four FA Cups.

He was given a free transfer by the London club and will earn £140,000 (S$248,000) a week in China, according to local media reports.

He said: "At 29 I still have many years in the game ahead of me. I'm delighted to be joining Tianjin Teda FC at a time that league is really taking off, and I look forward to helping them continue to grow on and off the pitch."

Chinese clubs have made several high-profile transfers over the last month with Argentinian striker Carlos Tevez moving to Shanghai Shenhua for a reported €84 million (S$127 million).

Less than a week later, Brazilian midfielder Oscar joined cross-town rivals Shanghai SIPG from Chelsea in a deal believed to be worth €60 million (S$91 million).

Mikel's move follows an announcement by China's top sports governing body that it plans to cap the spending of its leading football clubs, accusing them of "burning money" to enlist foreign players while neglecting development of young home-grown talent.

An unnamed spokesman from China's General Administration of Sport described the excess of some Chinese clubs as "a grave phenomenon" in a question-and-answer session on the organisation's official website on Thursday.

He said the administration would "strengthen examination and supervision of clubs' financial affairs, progressively control clubs' expenditures on first-team players and ensure favourable financial conditions". It would also "set a cap for buying players, and inhibit unreasonable investment".

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 07, 2017, with the headline 'Tianjin Teda sign Mikel in big-money deal'. Print Edition | Subscribe