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Roma star Stephan El Shaarawy has turned 30 with a bank balance most of us can only dream of – and that's in large part thanks to his stint in China.
The days of the Chinese Super League's financial superiority are over, but those who got in at the peak of its powers made a fortune. And one of the big beneficiaries was former Italy wonderkid El Shaarawy, who left Serie A side Roma to join Shanghai Shenhua in a £14.5million deal in the summer of 2019.
He only spent 18 months in the Far East, making just 19 appearances and scoring a mere four goals. But El Shaaraway, who's celebrated his 30th birthday today (October 27), was heavily compensated.
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According to Forbes, he was earning £12.7m a season in Shanghai, meaning he would have racked up over £19m for his short stay. That works out to £1m for every match played, or £4.75m for every goal scored.
It looked like the winger would go on to make serious money in his career when he burst onto the scene with AC Milan in the early 2010s, but he never hit the heights that were expected of him and has reached only 29 caps for his country.
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His best season remains the 2012/13 campaign, when he scored 19 times in all competitions. Injuries hampered his remaining time in Milan, but he found a semblance of consistency after joining Roma for the first time in 2016, initially on loan.
El Shaaraway returned to his former club in January 2021 on a free transfer after his Shanghai contract, which was due to run until this year, was mutually terminated.
He was rotated in and out of the squad last season by boss Jose Mourinho, with various injury issues again leading to spells on the sidelines. But he did score three goals on route to their Europa Conference League success.
It's been much of the same for the now 30-year-old this season, but he could play a part as Roma look to salvage their Europa League campaign tonight. They face Finnish side HJK Helsinki in a must-win match.
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