Who’d have thought it folks? The sixth-best player on the planet was playing in the Premier League for Southampton last season. It’s a fact that passed the Sunday People’s Neil Moxley by.
According to the money measure, Graziano Pelle’s name now sits snugly among the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo , Lionel Messi , Hulk, Neymar , Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thomas Muller .
After the 30-year-old agreed a £260,000-a-week deal to sign for China Super League side Shandong Luneng , he was immediately catapulted into the ranks of the game’s royalty.
Obviously, this is beyond obscene. But then, where do you draw the line where football is concerned? Was it at £10,000-a-week, £50,000-a-week, or higher? No matter.
China has decided to join the football fraternity by smashing an iron fist through the glass wages ceiling.
And the established elite will be looking over their shoulders nervously at what happens next. And not just in England, either.
Yes, someone in the Beijing has decided that economic power does not bring the one-party state sufficient global recognition.
And that kicking a bag of wind into an onion bag will deliver a level of admiration that will be the envy of every country on the planet.
Of course, we all chortled when former England boss Sven-Goran Eriksson was installed as manager of Guangzhou R & F three years ago.
A sniff of cash and the Swede is off, like professional oaf Boris Johnson with a rugby ball in his hand. Eriksson’s brief flirtation with Notts County is evidence of that.
But slowly and surely evidence has been stacking up that the Chinese mean business.
Last season, Jiangsu Suning were able to outbid Liverpool for Brazilian Alex Teixeira. Colombia striker Jackson Martinez, on the wanted list of plenty in western Europe, joined Guangzhou Evergrande.
And Jiangsu Suning were also able to prise Ramires from Chelsea. The Brazilian wasn’t a bit-part at Stamford Bridge. He was one of the main cast. That was the one that got me.
If, all of a sudden, Roman Abramovich’s riches aren’t enough to keep a player in six-figure luxury, what is the world coming to?
Just weeks before that, the China Media Group lavished £265m upon Manchester City for a 13 per cent stake of their operation.
Is that to develop commercial partnerships or steal the best ideas on how to run a successful football club? Time will tell.
Since then, Wayne Rooney has been courted. The word is that his representatives were flown out on a private jet and a professional and lucrative pitch was laid out before them.
Only this week there have been more developments.
A guy called Wang Jianlin, who has already sneaked himself into the corridors of power by becoming ‘a high-level sponsor’ of FIFA – and who owns 20 per cent of Atletico Madrid to boot – has announced plans for a China Cup.
Three of Europe’s top sides will be invited to play against his country’s national team on a yearly basis.
By ‘invited’ it means, ‘paid.’ Wang Jianlin is China’s richest man.
And if you don’t believe that the state is taking the matter seriously enough, then consider the latest news – that Marco van Basten, Ruud Gullit and Frank Rijkaard have been employed to implement Dutch youth coaching methods at 200 schools.
Eventually, this will be rolled out to 50,000 establishments of learning, all following the same pattern over the next decade.
A plan is being fast-tracked. By why should we care?
Well, it matters because we supposedly have the most attractive and lucrative domestic football competition on the planet.
The Premier League is exported across all continents.
Part of the reason behind its’ success is the fact that it has paid – with one or two exceptions – the biggest wages.
And money doesn’t just talk in our national game, it screams through a megaphone.
But how can you boast that Burnley v West Brom or Bournemouth v Middlesbrough truly is worth £10m when none of the best players are on show?
The world of football wants to watch the best. And will pay for it accordingly.
There is a reason why the best actors get to work on the biggest blockbusters. It helps sell the film.
It’s the same with football.
Let’s look at the list we started with. Of those six names at the top of this page, only one performs in the Premier League – and that’s a pony-tailed 34-year-old Swede whose best days are behind him.
It was former Arsenal vice-chairman David Dein who famously said of Abramovich: “He’s parked a Russian tank in our front garden and is firing £50 notes at us.”
Well, the Chinese are doing likewise at the Premier League.
And if the English game cannot hold onto the likes of Graziano Pelle any longer, then clearly bigger problems could lie ahead.
© 2016 Mirror | This article was written by Neil Moxley and first appeared on the Mirror website on 17 July 2016.