When football fans think of transfers involving European & Asian sides they immediately picture an ageing, declining pro penning a lucrative deal in China or the Middle East to see out his career. The moves of Cannavaro, Raul, Drogba & Xavi spring to mind. And it is because of these pre-retirement type moves of recent times (coupled with the recent flood of players from Europe to the Chinese Super League) that the West Ham signing of Manuel Lanzini’s from the UAE’s Al Jazira appears even more of a left field piece of business.
It’s true that West Ham making the former River Plate man’s loan move a permanent deal makes total sense in hindsight given the Argentine’s success in the Premier League this year. However, Lanzini’s move from Asia straight to a top European League still completely bucks recent transfer trends given both its direction (Asia to Europe) and the age of the player involved (not an ageing pro by any means!).
— The National Sport (@NatSportUAE) March 22, 2016
And it is this bucking of recent trends, along with Lanzini’s recent success, that has me thinking about the existence of other players based in Asia that I feel have the talent to one day follow in La Joya’s steps & make successful moves to European sides.
Over the next few weeks I’m hoping to highlight a few of the younger/pre-peak Asian-based players that I would like to see chance their arm at making the grade in a major European league…
Ricardo Goulart & Everton Ribeiro
To kick things off, we’re looking at two of the highest profile pre-peak players based in Asia. Like Lanzini, these two are representative of the growing number of young, talented South American players that get in their big money Asian move at a younger age, following in the steps of the Dario Concas of this world.
Goulart & Ribeiro, the two stars of Cruzeiro’s 2014 Campeonato Brasileiro win, were both linked with big moves to major European sides, with Riberio notably being supposed to have turned down both AC Milan & Manchester United when making his move to the Middle East. In the end, Ribeiro signed for Dubai’s Al Ahli and Ricardo Goulart moved to CSL champions Guangzhou Evergrande.
Both were deemed unambitious mercenaries for making such big money switches to Asia at such a young age (both moved at under 25). And European football fans must have looked on somewhat disappointed as the two talents lined up against eachother for their respective sides in the 2015 AFC Champions League final.
Goulart is perhaps the more exciting prospect when considering potential ability to succeed in Europe: he was the 2015 AFC Champions League top scorer and Player of the Tournament as Evergrande claimed their third Asian title of the past 5 years, and he’s consistently shown himself to be a cut above the competition he faces weekly in the Chinese Super League.
All in all, given their undoubted ability and the fact that they still have their best years ahead of them (Riberio aged 26 and Goulart only 24) the idea of either of them doing a Lanzini & one day having success in Europe is not completely out of the question.
However, although both talent & age suggest they may well be able to move to Europe, whether or not they would be willing is a totally different question… They’ve already snubbed the big leagues once, and given the considerable pay cuts (even more significant when accounting for taxes) that both players would have to take in order to represent feasible options for the sort of European clubs they could play for, the likelihood of them one day succeeding in Europe really comes down to their own personal ambitions… Over to you boys!
By Tom Drissi