Robson Sharuko in CAIRO, Egypt
RAFA BENITEZ’s US$21 million yearly pay packet at Chinese Super League side Dalian Yifang, where Nyasha Mushekwi plies his trade, shows the big money world Zimbabwean footballers are now playing in and explains how the forward could afford to dangle an incentive to his teammates at this AFCON finals.
With Macauley Bonne having joined English Championship side Charlton Athletic, and set to move to former Premiership champions Leicester should he score, at least 15 goals in the forthcoming season, the financial landscape is changing for the Zimbabwean footballers.
Already, Tendayi Darikwa has been playing in the English Championship for former European champions, Nottingham Forest, and midfielder Marvelous Nakamba is being pursued by Aston Villa, Newcastle and Sheffield United.
The Warriors earned, at least, US$20 000 at this AFCON finals and, after their first round exit was confirmed by a humiliating 0-4 thrashing at the hands of the DRC, there has been some harsh criticism directed at them from home by some who feel their earnings were too much for a failing team.
Mushekwi dangled an incentive to his fellow Warriors to try and win the final match against the Congolese, and make history by becoming the first group of Zimbabwean players to qualify beyond the group stages of the AFCON finals.
But, while Mushekwi’s yearly pay deals have never been made public, Benitez’s rich pickings at Dalian Yifang show the paying power of the Chinese Super League and that many of these Warriors now have a huge financial value attached to the service they provide.
It’s very unlikely that Benitez could be earning such a fortune, while some of his best players, including Mushekwi, will be lagging far behind.
Belgian World Cup winger, Yannick Carrasco, who is wanted by Arsenal, is believed to be earning about US$14 million a year at Dalian Yifang.
Club owner Wang Jianlin is one of China’s richest men believed to be worth about US$30 billion in net value.
He has been trying to revive a club that dominated Chinese football between 1994 and 2000, in which they won four league championships in six seasons and also appeared in the final of the Asian Champions League.
Wang’s influence in the Chinese game saw his company, Wanda Group, bankroll Spanish coach Jose Camacho’s spell as the Chinese national team coach eight years ago while also snapping up a significant stake at La Liga side Atletico Madrid.
Benitez this week revealed he didn’t join the Chinese club for the money because he received bigger offers from European teams before making his decision to join Dalian Yifang.
“I have had offers of greater financial significance during my career, but they weren’t the project I was looking for,” Benítez told his official website.
“What I have found at Dalian is an incredible project that has arrived at the perfect time and this has been a major factor in my decision.
“We’ve accepted the challenge of leading a superb project with the full backing and confidence of the club’s leadership team.
“Over the last years many players and coaches I know have arrived in China, so I have been able to follow the Super League as much as possible.
“It’s a competition with its unique qualities so we will have to know how to adapt, but our path forward is clear. Dalian Yifang is an historic club in one of the most football passionate cities in the country, so this is an added attraction.
“Everyone says how loyal the Dalian fans are and we’ve witnessed this passion for the club from the very first moment. Without doubt coming to a club with such great supporters was another key in making this commitment.
“This club has all the components that we were looking for to start a new chapter with the maximum motivation.
“Among the directors of the club I have found people who value my track record, such as the chairman of the Wanda Group, Mr Wang, who is keen to grow this club as much as possible, develop a tremendous project and support this growth with all the necessary resources.
“We share the same ambition of developing a great project here and leave a legacy in Dalian.”
His first game is against Hena Jianye tomorrow.