Ezequiel Lavezzi

Nigerian international striker Obafemi Martins has joined the growing band of foreign players heading to China, swapping Major League Soccer’s Seattle Sounders for Shanghai Greenland Shenhua.

The 31-year-old former Inter Milan and Newcastle forward announced his move on Twitter, saying he was looking forward to a “new challenge” in the Chinese Super League after spending three years with the Sounders. 

“I can wholeheartedly say that I seized the opportunity in Seattle and gave everything I had for the club,” Martins said. 

“For me it’s now time for a new challenge. After significant reflection, I have decided to join Shanghai Greenland Shenhua FC of the CSL.”

Martins is the latest in a series of foreign footballers to be lured to China, which is making a concerted effort to attract overseas players to its top-flight with jaw-dropping sums of money. 

Earlier this week, Paris Saint-Germain’s Argentine forward Ezequiel Lavezzi signed with Hebei China Fortune, who are reportedly paying the South American an astonishing 23.5 million pounds ($33.6 million) over two years. 

Chinese teams have been splashing their cash in Europe, as wealthy owners embrace President Xi Jinping’s vision of the sleeping Asian giant becoming a new footballing heavyweight.

The current transfer window shuts on February 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-flush China Super League. 

The Chinese transfer fee record has been smashed four times in the current transfer window, culminating in Jiangsu Suning paying Shakhtar Donetsk 50 million euros for Teixeira. 

Martins will replace Australian footballer Tim Cahill, who earlier this week accused many of the new arrivals being motivated by greed. 

“The choices that players are making are not about football like it was in my day. They are purely about personal gains and it depends what you want as an individual,” said Cahill. – Agence France-Presse

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