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China flexes its financial muscle as players head east

28 January 2016, 11:34

Shanghai - Inter Milan's Colombian international Fredy Guarin has signed for Shanghai Greenland Shenhua, the Chinese club said, the latest in a stream of European-based players to head east.

Shenhua have had high-profile foreign players before, including Ivory Coast's Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka of France, although the team have been eclipsed more recently and finished sixth in the Chinese Super League last year despite having Australia's Tim Cahill in their squad.

"We believe Guarin's joining will greatly enhance Greenland Shenhua's midfield defensive strength in the new season," the club said in a statement on their verified microblog late Wednesday.

It did not give a fee but Italian football news site calciomercato.com said Guarin will reportedly earn 11 million euros ($12 million) plus bonuses.

Guarin is the latest in a series of arrivals in China during the current European transfer window as the increasingly wealthy league flexes its financial muscles.

Brazilian midfielder Ramires moved from Chelsea to Jiangsu Suning on Wednesday.

Jiangsu Suning said on their microblog that they paid 28 million euros ($30.5 million) for the 28-year-old, making him the biggest-ever signing by a Chinese club.

Ramires joined Chelsea from Benfica in 2010 and won the Champions League and the Premier League in 251 appearances for the London club, during which he scored 34 goals.

He was a favourite under Jose Mourinho but struggled to get a game in recent months.

Suning, based in Nanjing and coached by another former Chelsea player, Dan Petrescu, have also signed Australian international Trent Sainsbury from Dutch side PEC Zwolle in recent days.

Ivory Coast and former Arsenal striker Gervinho moved this week from Roma to Hebei Fortune, which did not disclose a fee.

According to a FIFA report released last week, China was the sixth biggest transfer spender in 2015 and the biggest outside the major European leagues in England, Spain, Italy, Germany and France.

The $168 million spent by Chinese Super League clubs in 2015 was 68 percent higher than in 2014 and observers said the Ramires transfer is a sign that the record will be smashed again this year.

In an intra-Chinese deal, Asian football champions Guangzhou Evergrande last week sold their Brazilian top scorer Elkeson to rivals Shanghai SIPG for as much as 20 million euros ($22 million), the official Xinhua news agency reported.

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