Africans will continue to move to China - Bertrand Traore

By Barney CullumBBC Sport
Bertrand Traore (right)
Bertrand Traore (right) helped his side daw 1-1 with Cameroon in their Nations Cup opener in Gabon

Burkina Faso forward Bertrand Traore expects fellow Africa Cup of Nations stars in Gabon will follow Nigeria captain Jon Obi Mikel and Brazilian Oscar in joining clubs in the Chinese Super League.

Mikel signed for Tianjin TEDA and Oscar joined Shanghai SIPG in two huge January transfer deals as they both left Chelsea.

Chinese clubs have been investing heavily in foreign talent since former Ivory Coast captain Didier Drogba became one of the first high-profile players to head east five years ago.

And with the transfer window open right through to the semi-finals of the Nations Cup, some of the players competing at the tournament may feel they have a chance to put themselves in the frame for a big-money move.

"The important thing is to find a club where the football project is big, interesting and you really feel wanted," Burkina Faso striker Traore, who is on loan at Ajax from Chelsea, told BBC Sport.

"Jon and Oscar have found this and I am happy for them. It is interesting Drogba may now go to Brazil, too."

Traore announced himself as a precocious talent when he made his Stallions debut aged fifteen in 2012 and is now playing at his fourth Nations Cup, even though he is only 21.

The forward, known for his electric pace and clinical finishing, said he was "living a dream" when he signed for then Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho upon turning 18.

However, after scoring four goals in 16 appearances last term, he admitted to being demoralised when new Blues boss Antonio Conte sent him out on loan and he has a different perspective on his career now.

"I am always pleased when I am playing for Chelsea [but] you cannot always pick and choose which club to play for. Playing in different countries is always a good thing if you feel wanted because then you will feel happy," Traore said after his country's 1-1 draw with Cameroon on Saturday.

If Traore were to join Oscar in leaving Stamford Bridge without tasting Champions League success, or at least more years competing in the Premier League, some may consider it an unfulfilled career.

Financial pressures

However, agent Guy-Michel Boli, brother of Ivory Coast-born Champions League winner Basil Boli, says prestigious prizes are just one consideration.

"African players often have extended families and there are pressures to support as many of them financially as possible," Boli said while taking in a Gabon training session at the national stadium.

Cameroon's Clinton N'Jie (right)
Cameroon's Clinton N'Jie (right) is less convinced by the lure of China

Boli feels new rules curbing the amount of foreign players Chinese clubs can field ahead of the new season in March will not stem the flow.

"You will see many more make the move and there is interest from Japan as well as China," he said.

Every player has a different outlook, however, and Cameroon's Clinton N'Jie is one of many who remain committed to the allure of winning Europe's prestigious prizes.

"Oscar is very young to go to China and I hope he comes back to Europe in the future to show his talents," said the Tottenham striker, who is on loan at Marseilles.

"I am 23 and the players I know in my age category are focussed to play in Europe, for the pleasure of playing at the top level and competing for the top prizes.

"For players like Didier [Drogba] of course it is different; he is a player who has won everything you can win and once you do that you are free to play wherever you choose."

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