It’s no longer just about the glamour but the bucks
Harare – DEMBA BA triggered a storm with sensational claims that African footballers are not given the same value as their European counterparts and, in this transfer window, the continent’s stars seem to be heading where their bread is buttered better.
The Senegalese hitman, who scaled the heights to play for Chelsea in the English Premiership, and had stints at West Ham and Newcastle United, provoked a fierce debate with his controversial remarks that the world’s major clubs do not believe African players should be accorded the same value as their European counterparts.
“Unfortunately, African players are not worth the same as English players or European players,” Ba told English tabloid, the Daily Mirror.
“It’s just the way it is. Is that why Yaya Toure never wins the FIFA World Player of the Year award? Probably. I don’t blame anyone. But that’s it.”
An online poll by the English tabloid, this week, revealed that 77 percent of the respondents felt that Ba’s explosive assessment of the world’s football transfer market, and the earnings derived by the players, was right while only 23 percent disagreed with him.
Ba is 30, the same age as Bastian Schweinsteiger, the German World Cup winner who signed a three-year deal at English Premiership giants Manchester United this week.
But while Schweinsteiger was moving to the glamour and glitz of Old Trafford, Ba decided he would be better served in the Chinese Premier League, and snubbed another English Premiership side, West Bromwich Albion, despite the Midlands club being ready to make him their most expensive recruit ever.
Instead, Ba completed a £9 million move from Turkish club, Besiktas, to Chinese team, Shanghai Chenhua, leaving the razzmatazz of European football for an Asian adventure where he feels his financial interests will be better served.
He isn’t the only one.
Ghanaian skipper, Asamoah Gyan, with 95 goals in 83 matches in the United Arab Emirates, would have been hot property for a number of European clubs during this transfer window.
At 29, he is younger than Schweinsteiger, and is a proven goal scorer, having made a big impression during his time in the English Premiership.
But Gyan decided his financial interests would be better served in China where he joined Shanghai SIPG, a team coached by former England national side coach Sven-Goran Eriksson, and which will pay him a staggering US$250 000 a week.
While all the media focus has been on what is happening in European football, and notably why African players are not shaking the market the way they used to do in the past, it appears that the stars from the continent now know their real value and are prepared to sacrifice the glamour to play where they will be paid what they believe they are worth.
Their critics will argue that the major European clubs are ready to pay the right price, for the African players, should one who has the quality come along and they will point to the £28 million that was paid by Manchester City for Ivorian star, Wilfried Bony, in January this year, as an example of such an investment.
But that African players have waited for this long, for one club to pay such a figure for one of them, also tells its story and, after all, Bony was a panic buy by a Manchester City side desperate the boost their striking options and defend their English Premiership title.
“I think there is growing awareness among the African stars that, for long, they haven’t been given a deal that fitted their status, in terms of financial earnings, and they are now flexing their muscles and settling for the deals that serve their interests,” said former Zimbabwe skipper, Moses Chunga, who was one of the first African players to settle in Europe.
“It’s no longer about playing for a glamourous club, as could have been the case in the past, but for one that ensures that you are paid what your talents deserve and it’s good that we now have Chinese teams that are prepared to make such huge payments.
“Of course, some will talk about the standard of football, which is higher in Europe, but I believe that at a certain age, one has also to think about life after the game and when you look at these guys, they have spent a long time playing for some of these European clubs and felt that they were not getting what they deserved.
“I don’t think Demba Ba or Asamoah Gyan is too old to play for any of the big clubs in Europe but they feel that they can get better salaries and conditions of service elsewhere and that is why they are going there and, if all goes well, we might see even some very young players from Africa also following their lead because, at the end of it all, it’s about who serves your interests better.”
Africa’s Most Expensive Footballers
1 – Wilfried Bony (£28 million)
2 – Emmanuel Adebayor (£26 million, Estimated Net Value US$27 million)
3 – Michael Essien (£24.4 million)
4 – Didier Drogba (£24m, Estimated Net Value US$70 million)
5 – Yaya Toure (£24m, Estimated Net Value US$65 million)
6 – Samuel Eto’o (£21.8m, Estimated Net Value US$90 million)
5 – Mehdi Benatia (£21m)
6 – John Obi Mikel (£16m, Estimated Net Value US$15 million)
7 – Kolo Toure (£14m, Estimated Net Value US$18 million)