Paulinho’s signing for Barcelona was a watershed moment for the global game.
Long regarded as a graveyard for talented footballers, his return to European football showed that it doesn’t have to be the case. His stint at Guangzhou Evergrande actually proved to revive a career that had stalled badly at Tottenham.
For some, China offers unparalleled riches. This transfer window has seen Yannick Carrasco, Cedric Bakambu and Nico Gaitan move away from La Liga, when each surely could have played at a higher level by staying where they are or challenging themselves at another European club.
The Chinese Super League is undoubtedly developing. The majority of European and South American imports are still in their twenties - offering longevity, as opposed to a half-arsed bookend to a career in chase of a final paycheck. But by signing younger players, there’s also a chance they don’t see out all of their prime years there.
It feels like there are two ways to leave Chinese football, or a combination of the two. There's the Paulinho route - where, by performing well, they still maintain a presence in the national team and don't drop off the radar. There’s also the Tevez route - in which the chasing of riches results in a lack of professionalism and unwillingness to adapt.
It’s unlikely an elite level club, such as Barcelona, will opt for any of the players currently plying their trade in the Chinese Super League and as such a return to Europe, or especially South America, would constitute a significant pay-cut. But, like Tevez, after earning such an amount for a year or two, a player might be happy to cut their losses in order to return.
Here are five players in the Chinese Super League we might not have seen the last of: