Nigerian striker Ayegbeni Yakubu insisted on Wednesday his move to China was made out of a fierce desire to help his ambitious new club, rather than the huge money on offer.
The former Blackburn Rovers striker is the latest in a series of Premier League footballers to join the Chinese Super League for reportedly enormous salaries, with Nicholas Anelka and Didier Drogba among other recent signings.
British media have reported Yakubu will be paid £6m ($7.3m) a year to play for Guangzhou R&F, although the club has not commented on his salary and he said it was irrelevant.
“After hearing the club’s plans, I realised I had to join. Money wasn’t a factor,” Yakubu said at a press conference to mark the official completion of his transfer, in remarks quoted by Chinese sports website 21cn.
Yakubu, 29, who signed a three-year contract with Guangzhou R&F, said Anelka’s decision to join Shanghai Shenhua in January had sparked a lot of interest among other top players overseas in coming to China.
“Since Anelka arrived, more and more top-flight players are coming to China, and our arrival can help improve the quality of the nation’s football,” Yakubu said.
Anelka joined Shenhua on a two-year contract reportedly paying £234,000 ($307,000) a week, however his presence has failed to lift his club from near the bottom of the table.
Drogba is set to join Anelka at Shenhua this weekend on a contract that press reports say is worth $314,000 a week.
Yakubu suggested that any potential culture shock would be eased by the large Nigerian population in Guangzhou, China’s third-largest city in the south that is home to thousands of African traders.
“I’ve heard that there are five thousand of my compatriots living in Guangzhou,” he said.
Guangzhou R&F’s vice-president Lu Yi said that the club, currently sixth in the standings after being promoted from China’s second division last season, would consider making further expensive signings.
“Our objective is qualification for the Asian Club Championship, and we’ll do everything we can to strengthen our team,” he told Chinese portal Netease.
Yakubu is expected to return to the Super Eagles under Stephen Keshi when the campaign for Brazil 2014 resumes.