After succeeding at the end highest level, several top football stars moved to clubs in Asia to end their careers.
Top footballers in Europe, as well as in South America, love moving to less competitive leagues (especially in Asia) towards the end of their careers.
Mostly, their motivation is to earn more money at the end of their successful careers; and Asian clubs offer large salaries and lucrative contracts to attract top players.
In fact few years ago, some star players moved to China due to the monstrous pays on offer as well as the chance to be a leading star in the Chinese Super League.
These players started earning fortunes every week.
Furthermore, while most of the players were big names who were reaching the end of their careers; some promising talented stars in their prime also made the move.
The most notable was Brazilian midfielder, Oscar, who departed Chelsea for Shanghai SIPG to sign a 4-year contract worth £400,000 per week.
Many accused the players who moved to China of lacking the ambition to compete at the top level. But with the salaries on offer, you can hardly blame some of these players for exchanging warming the bench at an European club for stardom in China.
Here, FootballOrbit presents you with the top 10 footballers that moved to Asia towards the end of their careers.
1. Cristiano Ronaldo
Cristiano Ronaldo recently joined Saudi Arabian club Al-Nassr in a deal that makes him the highest-paid footballer in the world.
Ronaldo had starred for the likes of Manchester United, Real Madrid and Juventus in his prime.
2. Austin Jay-Jay Okocha
After playing for the likes of Eintracht Frankfurt, Fenerbahce, PSG and Bolton; Jay-Jay Okocha joined Qatari club Qatar SC in 2006.
He spent only one season with the club before transferring to Hull City in 2007.
3. Andres Iniesta
Widely regarded as one of the best midfielders of all time, Andres Iniesta spent the most of his illustrious career at Barcelona.
After 22 years at Barca, he signed for Japanese club Vissel Kobe in 2018.
Iniesta helped Kobe win the Emperor’s Cup in 2019 and the Japanese Super Cup in 2020.
4. Robert Pires
Robert Pires played for the likes of Metz, Marseille, Villareal and Aston Villa.
His most successful period was spent at Arsenal, where he won 2 FA Cups and 2 Premier League titles — including the club’s unbeaten season of 2003/04.
Furthermore, he won the 1998 FIFA World Cup and Euro 2000 with France.
In 2014, Pires was signed by Indian Super League club, FC Goa. He was 40 years old then, but came out of retirement to play for the club.
5. Samuel Eto’o
In his prime, Samuel Eto’o was regarded as one of the best strikers in the world and one of the greatest African players of all time.
Moreso, he won the African Player of the Year a joint-record 4 times.
After playing for the likes of Barcelona, Inter Milan and Chelsea, he joined Qatar SC in 2018.
A year later, Samuel Eto’o announced his retirement from football.
Fabio Cannavaro played for the likes of Napoli, Inter Milan, Juventus and Real Madrid. He captained Italy to win the FIFA World Cup in 2006.
He joined UAE club Al-Ahli in 2010 and made 16 appearances for the Dubai-based side — scoring 2 goals.
Cannavaro announced his retirement from football the following year due to a serious knee problem.
7. Xavi Hernandez
Xavi spent 23 years at Barcelona before leaving for Asia in 2015. This came at the back of helping the club win a Treble.
He joined Al Sadd — a Qatari club based in Doha — signing a three-year contract.
He was later appointed as coach of the club upon his retirement. He won 7 trophies as their manager before leaving for Barcelona in 2021.
8. Gabriel Batistuta
Regarded as one of the greatest strikers of all time, Gabriel Batistuta played for teams like River Plate, Boca Juniors, Fiorentina and Roma.
After a brief loan spell with Inter Milan in 2003, he played his last two seasons in Qatar with Al-Arabi before retiring in 2005.
9. Carlos Tevez
Carlos Tevez was a very controversial player in his days. But the Argentine striker is considered a legend at some of the clubs he played for.
His glittering career saw him play across the globe. He ended up at Chinese side Shanghai Shenhua in 2016.
Tevez was coming to the end of his career when he moved to China from Boca Juniors to become one of the highest-paid footballers in the world — earning a whopping £650,000 per week.
He failed to keep fit and managed just 4 goals in 20 appearances.
Carlos Tevez was one of the notable footballers that retired in 2022.
10. Alessandro Del Piero
Juventus legend, Alessandro Del Piero, is the biggest name to have played in Australian soccer. He spent two years with Sydney FC between 2012 to 2014.
The deal was described by the club as the “largest professional sporting contract in Australian history”.
It was reported to be $2 million a season. Del Piero scored 24 goals in 48 games for Sydney.
After a season with another Asian team — Delhi Dynamos FC in the Indian Super League — the Italian retired in 2014.
¶John Obi Mikel