Sao Paulo: Better infrastructure and bigger salaries paid on time are prompting a new wave of Brazilians to emigrate to China, with players and coaches making the move for cash and relative soccer stability.
Two of the top players in Brazil`s Serie A signed for Chinese clubs this month, joining more than a dozen who are already there.
Diego Tardelli, 29, left Atletico Mineiro for Shandong Luneng at the weekend for more than $5.0 million and Chinese champions Guangzhou Evergrande paid almost three times that for Ricardo Goulart, the attacking midfielder who was third top scorer in Serie A last year. He is only 23.
Both players featured in recent Brazil squads and their departure is seen as an indication of China`s growing allure.
"China reminds me a lot of Japan in years gone by," said Cuca, the former Atletico Mineiro coach who signed Tardelli for Shandong Luneng.
"The Japanese market was strong and they looked to Brazil to learn (footballing) values.
"That is what is happening with China today. They are trying to learn from the different schools and have players from lots of different countries."
Cuca, who moved to China after guiding Atletico Mineiro to their first ever Libertadores Cup in 2012, said working conditions in China are light years ahead of even the biggest Brazilian clubs.
"No team in Brazil has an infrastructure like the team I am at in China," he told Reuters on Saturday after Shandong lost 3-1 to Palmeiras in a pre-season friendly.
"Land is easier there, we have seven pitches, each one better than the next, there`s all-weather pitches, full size, seven-a-side.
"Each player has his own suite. We have all the latest you can imagine in terms of physical infrastructure."
The Chinese Super League has imported foreign players from countries as diverse as Bosnia, Jamaica and Zambia – each team can sign up to five – and securing the right personnel remains a serious challenge, both on and off the field, Cuca said.
"I`m taking back a kit man we hired," he said.
"Every player there washes their own kit. We are taking over a doctor, too.
"They have good doctors there but they are inexperienced. They don`t have nutrition, it`s not balanced like here. Before the games they eat stuff you wouldn`t believe. So it is up to the coach to help that kind of professional evolution as well."
But money and peace of mind are the biggest lures. China may become a football force in the future, but the game there has taken time to develop.
They have only reached the World Cup finals once, in 2002 when they lost all three matches without scoring, but they have made it through to the last eight of the current Asian Cup in Australia.
Despite their huge potential and potential to excel, they have never won their continental title, with their best-placed finishes runners-up in 1984 and 2004 when they hosted the event.
However the average attendance at domestic league matches is higher than in Brazil without making the same demands on players. Players say they work in peace and get huge salaries in return.
"I am getting four times what I got at Sao Paulo," Aloisio, Shandong`s Brazilian winger, told Reuters. "It was an offer I couldn`t turn down, it was my future and the future of my family."
The Chinese clubs pay the players` tax bills and they are paid on time, unlike in Brazil, where the financial mismanagement of most clubs mean players frequently go unpaid for months.
"In Brazil, almost a third goes on taxes and it is difficult to get paid," Cuca said. "In China you are guaranteed to get your money on time. I`m not going to lie, I came here firstly to ensure my financial independence."
Cuca said the cultural aspects were also appealing. He has visited Korea, Thailand, and Japan for Asian Champions League games and he is able to brush shoulders with personalities such as Marcello Lippi, the man who guided Italy to the 2006 World Cup and is now director of football at Guangzhou.
However, he warned his compatriots to weigh up the consequences before making the move east.
"Brazilians who go, as I do, have to realise that you disappear," he said.
"The media doesn`t see what you do. If you score three goals in China and one here in Brazil the one is worth much more. The players have to have a long a think about it with their families."