Ezequiel Lavezzi claims that he could have signed for Inter Milan, Chelsea or Manchester United before finally deciding to leave Paris Saint-Germain in February. The Argentine striker had long been linked with a potential switch to the Premier League, but will now ply his trade in China instead after agreeing a lucrative two-year contract with Hebei China Fortune believed to be worth approximately £23.5m ($32.7m).
Such a move saw Lavezzi become the latest in an increasingly long line of high-profile European-based players to head for the Chinese Super League (CSL). Earlier in the transfer window, Jiangsu Suning snapped up Ramires from Chelsea and pipped Liverpool to the signing of Alex Teixeira from Shakhtar Donetsk. Jackson Martinez left Atletico Madrid to join Guangzhou Evergrande, while Fredy Guarin opted for Shanghai Shenhua and Burak Yilmaz signed for Beijing Guoan.
Lavezzi was one of four headline winter arrivals for a Hebei China Fortune side managed by former Everton midfielder Li Tie, with the Samba Kings also moving to bring in Gervinho from Roma, in addition to Stephane Mbia and Gael Kakuta. An annual wage of approximately £288,000-per-week has been offered by many as the obvious reason behind his transfer, although the player himself insists that he snubbed a number of bigger clubs in order to embark upon an exciting development project at the Qinhuangdao Olympic Sports Centre Stadium immersed in a new culture.
"I could have signed for Inter, Chelsea or Manchester United," he told French television channel Canal+ as quoted by The Sun. "But I made the decision to go to China. It's an important choice for my career, I'm sure I'll face many challenges here.
"I like the project to develop this club. It was that which convinced me to come to Hebei, as well as the financial aspect. I'm also fascinated by Chinese culture, so to come and play here is definitely an interesting challenge."
The 30-year-old was officially unveiled along with his fellow new recruits in a ceremony earlier this week. Hebei China Fortune, currently owned by real estate owners, open the 2016 CSL season away to Guangzhou R&F on 4 March. The club won promotion last term after finishing second in League One, two points ahead of Dalian Yifang and only one adrift of eventual title winners Yanbian Fude.