Oscar’s January move to China, Chelsea’s record player transfer at €60m, floated down the river of narrative on a pontoon boat made of money and ambition, or its absence, to be more precise.
The left pontoon was filled with all the stuff about the ridiculous amounts of moneys paid, both in terms of the transfer fee and in terms of the wages that made Oscar one of the handful of highest paid players in the world. That he was just the latest in the increasingly higher profile transfers to China from Europe is equal parts worrying for Europe (and especially previous financial top dawgs England) and worrying for China (who are starting to question just how wise all of this may be).
The right pontoon was filled with all the pontification about Oscar’s (lack of) ambition, going to China to catch a payday at the height of his career rather than on the downward slope of it. Where’s the glory? Where’s the fight? All that (non-)sense.
But here’s a third angle, and one that I certainly hadn’t considered before, courtesy of Oscar’s new manager, former Chelsea boy-scout André Villas-Boas.
"The fact that Oscar has signed for Shanghai means a lot for Chinese football. He's a player that joins the Chinese Super League at the age of 25. It means he's at his full potential and had options to go to big clubs.”
"Of course, he had great financial attraction to move to China. It's good for us that he has decided to come. We expect a lot from him, but we know that without the help of other players, he can't achieve success. So our idea is to quickly integrate him into our team.”
Oscar is the first step in the next phase of the Chinese Super League’s plan for global domination. Up to this point, the CSL had done exactly what the Premier League did 25 years ago or what MLS did a decade later: sign the older, declining, big-name players from the current top leagues and slowly build the league’s prestige and power. Except China’s working on an much more accelerated timeline, especially if Oscar’s move pans out as well as they hope it will (and other support structures don’t collapse).
“I don't need to explain about Oscar. He's one of the best midfielders in the world. And we hope we can unlock his full potential in China. It's a difficult move for him because there's a lot of pressure when such a young player comes from a big club like Chelsea directly to China.”
“The Chinese market normally attracts star players from the age of 27 or 28. Chinese football should be grateful that we've been able to attract him to Shanghai. The club owners have made a great effort to have him. As coach, I must try to get the best out of him and make sure he's happy. On the other hand, he has to understand that he can't do any magic alone.”
On another hand, Oscar won’t have the likes of Eden Hazard or Neymar to help him out either. He will be the big fish, the biggest fish and it won’t even be close.
“If they continue in this way, maybe yes [the CSL will only get better], because they have lots of good projects. Of course the Premier League [has higher] level of players in the world, but the Chinese guys are very good. They help the new players a lot, and I hope they continue this because I come to help.”
"The transfer was good for me, good for Chelsea, good for Shanghai, and I'm so happy to come to the Chinese Super League. I think the Chinese clubs [spend] a lot of money for the players to go to China, to make the league stronger. They made me an offer and I'm very happy to come.”
-Oscar; source: Sky via FourFourTwo
Can he handle it? Will he be Shanghai SIPG’s Fernando Torres / Chris Sutton / Andriy Shevchenko? Only time will tell.
He’s off to a good start with a goal in his first pre-season match.