PARIS: In the end, the Chinese made Cedric Bakambu an offer that was too good to refuse.
The Congolese striker’s move to Chinese Super League club Beijing Guoan has been the subject of intense scrutiny since Bakambu paid the 40-million-euro ($49.75 million) buyout clause in his contract with Spanish side Villarreal.
That move came after the Chinese Football Association (CFA) introduced a 100 percent tax on expensive transfers worth more than 45 million yuan ($7 million).
After Bakambu freed himself, saying it was “for personal reasons”, the CFA said if it catches teams trying to sidestep the tax it will hit them with crippling point deductions and could refuse to register players.
Although Bakambu has not yet signed with Guoan, he has been training with them in Portugal. He talked to Agence France-Presse on Thursday when he stopped in Paris on his way to China.
“It’s just a question of timing,” Bakambu said. “They didn’t want to do it in the shadows hidden away in a hotel in Portugal.
“They want to do it in Beijing in front of the press and their supporters, and that’s why this thing is dragging on a bit,” he said.
Asked whether the club might want to avoid the transfer tax, Bakambu said: “I’ve seen stories like this but that’s not my business, the money is not mine and it won’t be going in my pocket.”
He is expected to be paid around 18 million euros a year before tax.
Bakambu, who grew up in the Paris suburbs, said, the difference between the Chinese offer and his income in Spain was “great”.
Yet he acknowledged that he could understand why some critics were surprised that, at the age of 26, he had chosen to leave La Liga for China.
“I did not understand either,” he said with a laugh. “What happened was that, at first, I was not too excited and later they found the arguments to convince me. That took several months.”
Bakambu had scored 14 goals in 21 matches this season for Villarreal.
“I was having the best season of my career but there you are, they managed to convince me. Football is good, but life is more important. I will not lie, I know why I went there and I take responsibility my choice.”
Asked if it was a financial offer that was hard to refuse, Bakambu answered: “Yes.”
He paused, before continuing: “I’m not going to hide it, financially speaking the difference between what I had in Villarreal and what the Chinese club was offering me was too great.
“There are some who can say no. I accepted, because I have good reasons. There are some who would have gone for less and others who would have refused for more. I made my choice.”
Did those reasons include his impoverished upbringing on the outskirts of Paris?
“Clearly, this was the most important factor,” he answered.
“I often go to Vitry-sur-Seine to relax a little, to see my family and my friends. It helps me keep my feet on the ground,” he said. “I’m a professional player today, but don’t believe it’s always been easy. I don’t want to whine, but I’ve lived through bad situations.”
“The fact that I have known hard times played a part in my choice.”
He said he had no idea how long he would stay in China.
“I had a five-year contract with Villarreal, and I only stayed six months. I do not know what will happen in China. We’ll see.”