The Chinese Super League has emerged as an MLS rival for pricey foreign talent in recent years, but a recent change in their salary-cap rules could have the unintended consequence of opening a mini-mart for stateside shoppers.
This stricter cap only applies to new signings and contract extensions, so it's not like foreign stars will immediately start fleeing the Red Dragon in droves. The change should, however, make it easier to lure the ones approaching the end of their current contracts, the dates of which are included below.
As such, we've come up with a tempting group of CSL players worth monitoring for the near future. These big purchases have generally gone to attack stars, so you won't be finding any defensive-minded positions covered. This time, it's all about browsing for goals.
Cedric Bakambu (Dec. 2021)
Though the Beijing Guoan striker (pictured above) still has two seasons on his deal, he recently passed a marker in his contract term that allows him to seek an early exit if he wishes.
This has reportedly sparked interest from Atletico Madrid and Manchester United, but there's plenty of time for any club with an open Designated Player slot and the sore need for an accomplished area finisher. The 28-year-old can get behind a defense or bang in the box for his yard of space.
Johnathan (Dec. 2020)
Like the other two forwards listed here, the Tianjin Teda goal shark rarely has met a shot he didn't like around the area. However, Johnathan is the one that most prefers facing the goal on approach rather than playing with his back to it. The 29-year-old is lethal in transition, which would make him a nice target for any team that relies heavily on its counterattack.
Fernando Karanga (Dec. 2020)
Need a blunt-object striker, but Bakambu's tag is a little rich for your blood? Look no further than this Henan Jianye front man. Also 28, he won't offer as much in the build as Bakambu, but Karanga is a far better aerial target.
He has good size, will give up his body to score and draws loads of fouls in the final third. Atop the right attack structure, the Brazilian could do damage. He always finds his chances, and then tends to put one away.
Dia Saba (Dec. 2021)
The Guangzhou R&F big-play artist, who was once linked with interest from Minnesota United, skitters around the final third with high energy. Saba's sort of like an Israeli Giovinco without all the free kicks. He's short, which makes him difficult to pin down on the dribble. The 27-year-old can create danger from nearly anywhere in attack, and is definitely not shy on the trigger. He can score from distance as easily as he can release a teammate through the back line.
Alex Teixeira (Dec. 2020)
Alex Teixeira | Reuters/Action Images
The biggest potential prize in 2020 is Jiangsu Suning's 30-year-old dual-edged sword. Alex Teixeira can play out on the flank or slot in behind the striker, and watching him do either makes one think he could conjure offense in his sleep. Perhaps that's why he always works so much calmer than your team's defenders around the box. Think of every skill you'd want in an attack general — in possession, on the counter or on dead balls — and he's got it in his bag.
Jonathan Viera (Dec. 2021)
If you're looking for a legit lock-picking No. 10, Beijing Guoan may have your man. The 30-year-old Spaniard plays like one; he's composed on the ball and clever enough to split all your defenders with it. Viera wants to run the show and knows how to do it. He forces central defenders out with his wicked long-range shot, and then uses the lanes created by that shuffle to unleash forwards in the box.