Cedric Bakambu says that he made “a good choice” leaving Spain for the riches of Chinese football — and he is proving it by hitting 11 goals in as many games.
The French-born Congolese striker joined Chinese Super League (CSL) side Beijing Guoan from Villarreal earlier this year in a protracted move shrouded in mystery.
The cost of the transfer was never disclosed, but reports in Spain and France said that 40 million euros was paid to release Bakambu from his Villarreal contract, allowing him to move on a free transfer.
The Chinese Football Association (CFA) consequently announced in February that clubs who evade their 100 percent levy on incoming foreign players face crippling point deductions.
The 27-year-old, who by some estimations became the most expensive African footballer ever with the move to the Chinese capital, has been an instant hit and played a major part in helping Roger Schmidt’s side top the CSL with half the season gone.
Speaking on the eve of Saturday’s 2-2 draw at Shanghai Shenhua — Bakambu was again on the scoresheet — the forward said: “I think I made a good choice to come here.
“It is a new experience and I enjoy a lot my new life here in China.”
Speaking to AFP after the game, the former France under-20 international said he did not care what people thought about him moving to China from La Liga at the pinnacle of his career.
He is thought to earn about 18 million euros a year and previously admitted the cash was a major incentive.
“I know why I am here and it does not matter what others think,” he said in his first substantive comments to international media since arriving in China.
“I do what I want to do and the most important thing in life is that I am happy, the rest does not matter.”
Unlike some other foreign players who move to China, Bakambu brought his family with him.
“I like my life here in China and Beijing because I have good friends in my team, I am with my family, I am scoring goals and we are winning a lot of games,” said Bakambu, reportedly on the radar of English Premier League clubs before choosing China.
– ‘That’s quality’ –
Bakambu is among a cast of overseas players lured to the Asian country on handsome contracts that most clubs in Europe cannot match.
But his transfer was more unusual than most, dragging on for weeks as Guoan refused to say that he had signed even though he was pictured training with them.
German coach Schmidt, who took over at Guoan a year ago following his sacking by Bayer Leverkusen, was fulsome in his praise of Bakambu.
“He’s a very, very good striker and he does not need many opportunities to score,” said the 51-year-old, whose side have lost just once in 14 games this season.
Bakambu on Saturday put Guoan in front with a predatory close-range finish, but the visitors conceded an injury-time equaliser.
“It was very hard to get great chances to score but at the right moment he was there and that’s not a coincidence — that’s quality,” said Schmidt.
“He has done that very often this season, so he was a very good transfer for our club.”