BEIJING (Reuters) - Nigeria midfielder John Obi Mikel has become the latest big-name player to join the Chinese Super League gold rush after leaving Chelsea for Tianjin Teda.
Mikel, who failed to make a single appearance for Antonio Conte’s side this season, had a medical in the port city some 130 kilometres from Beijing on Thursday and the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) confirmed the deal on Friday.
“As you will know, I haven’t featured as much this season as I would have liked and at 29 I still have many years in the game ahead of me,” Mikel said in the statement.
“I‘m delighted to be joining Tianjin TEDA FC, at a time that (Chinese) league is really taking off, and I look forward to helping them continue to grow on and off the pitch in the next few years.”
The 29-year-old, who spent more than a decade at Stamford Bridge, was given a free transfer by the London club and would earn 140,000 pounds ($173,432) a week in China, according to local media reports.
After joining Chelsea in 2006, Mikel was part of a squad that won a Champions League crown, the Europa League, two Premier League titles and four FA Cups.
Chinese clubs have made several high-profile signings over the last month with Argentine striker Carlos Tevez moving to Shanghai Shenhua for a reported 84 million euros ($87.65 million).
Less than a week later, Brazilian midfielder Oscar joined local rivals Shanghai SIPG from Chelsea in a deal believed to be worth 60 million euros.
At the end of December, Cristiano Ronaldo’s agent said the World Player of the Year had turned down the chance to leave Real Madrid for an unnamed Chinese club for a transfer fee of 300 million euros ($315.24 million).
Amid the spending spree, the country’s General Administration of Sport described the excess of some Chinese clubs as “a grave phenomenon” on Thursday.
Mikel joins Serbian midfielder Nemanja Gudelj, who moved to Tianjin from Dutch club Ajax on Thursday.
($1 = 0.8072 pounds)
Writing by Nick Mulvenney in Sydney and Hardik Vyas in Bengaluru; Editing by Peter Rutherford/John O'Brien