Tim Cahill’s two-goal performance against China in the quarter-final of the 2015 Asian Cup earned the Socceroos star a deal of nearly $10 million a season by impressing the president and coach of Shanghai Shenhua.
Young footballers are often told they never know who is watching and that appears to still be the case for Australia’s all-time leading goalscorer at the age of 35. Vigilantly watching Cahill’s every move that match was Shenhua coach Francis Gillot and the club’s owners from Greenland Holdings.
They were so impressed by his workrate off the ball and his ruthless finishing that they broke their rule to not sign a foreigner over the age of 32 and, in so doing, gave Cahill what is believed to be the biggest-ever deal for an Australian footballer.
The veteran forward announced his move to the Chinese Super League on Tuesday and could pocket approximately $9.6 million per season with Shanghai Shenhua. Fairfax Media understands the deal is for only one season with the option of being extended for a second depending on a number of factors for both parties.
To earn that figure, Cahill will have to trigger performance bonuses and specific incentives in a deal that includes a high base salary and other clauses. The deal with Shanghai was not the only lucrative option, with Cahill receiving a number of offers from cashed-up clubs in Qatar and the UAE.
Cahill officially left the New York Red Bulls as a free agent on Tuesday, despite still having a year to run on his $US3.5 million ($A4.5 million) contract.
It is understood Shanghai Shenhua initially declined pursuing an option to sign Cahill late last year due to his age. However, they were so excited by his performances during the Asian Cup – specifically in the match against China – they followed up with a landmark deal.
Sources suggest that it wasn’t just Cahill’s prowess in front of goal that impressed Gillot but his ability to link up with other players and his determination to win the ball from defenders. His signing goes against a recent trend of the club who have rarely included a foreigner over the age of 30 since their high-profile signings of Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka in 2012.
Shenhua were desperately searching for an Australian striker to fulfil their Asian player spot and were close to signing the man many regard as the long-term replacement for Cahill in the national team, Tomi Juric.
Western Sydney Wanderers striker Juric was on the cusp of joining Shanghai Shenhua in January in a deal that would have provided the A-League club with a transfer fee worth $1.5 million and Juric with a guaranteed minimum earning of $3 million per season for three years.
However, the 23-year-old forward turned down a move to China on the advice of teammates and coaches. Shenhua then submitted an offer for Socceroo and Wellington Phoenix forward Nathan Burns but failed to reach an agreement with the New Zealand club.