By Piers Edwards*
Democratic Republic of Congo striker Cedric Bakambu has signed for China’s Beijing Guoan in what is understood to be an African transfer record.
The Chinese Super League side has not released the sum paid for the 26-year-old, but sources close to the player say it amounts to $90m (£65m).
This beats the $77m that Premier League side Arsenal paid for Gabon’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang last month.
Bakambu has signed for four years, the same sources say.
Beijing Guoan, who finished ninth in the 16-team Chinese Super League last season, had hoped to pay considerably less for the player, who left Spain’s Villarreal in January after his release clause worth $50m was triggered.
The Chinese club tried to convince local authorities there was no need to pay double that amount, as required by Chinese taxation rules, given the player was a free agent.
Although Beijing Guoan failed with this, they did succeed in reducing the required tax from $50m to $40m – so saving $10m.
Last year, the Chinese FA ruled that clubs must pay 100% tax on signings in a bid to curb extravagant spending, with the extra funds going to the development of the local game.
Despite the lack of any formal transfer, Bakambu started training with his new team-mates in Portugal in January – with the club releasing pictures of the forward in training.
The only African ever to receive La Liga’s Player of the Month award, Bakambu was one of the top scorers in La Liga, with nine goals, when he quit Villarreal.
He joined the Spanish club in 2015 from Turkish side Bursaspor, where he had scored 21 goals in his sole season with the club.
Born in France, the former France youth international – who switched allegiance to DR Congo in 2015 – won the Under-19 European Championship in 2010 and helped his side finish fourth at the following year’s Fifa Under-20 World Cup.
He started his career at French side Sochaux, where he progressed from the youth ranks prior to being promoted to the first team in 2010.
At international level, he has scored seven goals for DR Congo.