The Chinese Super league gets a lot of publicity regarding big money signings made by its member clubs. One would expect the league’s top scorer to be one of these big name signings from South America or the top European leagues, but it was the relatively unknown Israeli signed from Maccabi Tel Aviv – the controversial Eran Zahavi – who has become a goal machine in China. Bought by Guangzhou R and F for a princely $12.5 million which is now surely considered a snip compared to other clubs expenditure as well as taking into account his adaptability to the league and his goal prowess.
He finished the 2017 season with 27 league goals to win the CSL golden boot award, while also being named the league’s best player and named in the CSL team of the year. This form triggered a $20 million transfer bid from Shandong Luneng Taishan during the middle of the season, which would have been the highest transfer fee ever paid for an Israeli player. However, the bid was rejected and Zahavi signed a new contract with Guangzhou R and F until 2020 worth an astonishing $7 million per season.
This is a player who has spent the majority of his playing career at one of Israel’s top teams, playing for both Hapoel Tel Aviv and Maccabi Tel Aviv with a brief and unsuccessful stint at Palermo sandwiched in-between. Moving from one hated rival to another normally causes huge controversy but during one Tel Aviv derby a Hapoel fan ran onto the field and attacked Zahavi. He replied in kindness with a poor man’s Cantona kick, and then all hell broke loose as Zahavi got sent off, then things turned ugly in the stadium as fans fought and players argued with officials. The outcome was an abandoned game and Zahavi is no longer up for selection for the national team, although the money he is earning I don’t think it will trouble him.
With more imports being brought into the Chinese Super League every season it will be interesting to see if Zahavi still has the determination to succeed now that he has ‘won’ his massive contract. If he continues his success as a consistent goal scorer then it does make you wonder how no big clubs wanted him before Guangzhou, could it be that his stint in Palermo put off prospective suitors, if so it looks like they’ve missed an absolute gem of a player who would have been up there with Eyal Berkovic and Yossi Benayoun. Nonetheless, Chinese clubs transfer policies seem to remain as ad hoc as ever.