Argentine midfielder Augusto Fernandez admits money played a part in his decision to leave Atletico Madrid for Chinese Super League side Beijing Renhe.
Atletico announced on Wednesday, just hours before the winter transfer deadline, the sale of the 31-year-old for an undisclosed fee.
Fernandez, who was tied to the Spanish outfit until June 2019, has signed a two-year contract with the Beijing-based side.
“I thought the time had come,” Fernandez told Cadena Ser radio. “I’m not going to be a hyprocrite and say that the financial offer was not important for me and my family because it clearly was.
“But it was also important for a player like me, who suffered a serious injury and has not played two consecutive games in a year-and-a-half, to play again, to feel important again, and return to be a player.
“In the end, whether it is in China, Argentina or Spain, football is the same. Then I’ve heard marvellous things about Beijing. So it was a combination of everything and I took the decision to go.”
His last start in La Liga was on Nov. 4 in a 1-0 win at Deportivo La Coruna. A former Argentina international, Fernandez tore his right ACL in Sep 2016. He made 34 appearances in all competitions for the Rojiblancos after joining the club two years ago from Celta Vigo.
Fernandez only has good words for Atletico coach Diego Simeone, a fellow Argentine.
“He was the first to understand me,” he said of his countryman. “He was a player and he knows that I didn’t have the continuity that I needed at my age and after my knee injury.
“It’s clear that Atletico is a club and has a squad where you can’t afford to tear your ACL as it happened to me. When you return you don’t have the opportunity to play a series of consecutive games to get back in form and back in the rhythm.
“Then there was more competition for playing time from other players and I didn’t see myself with possibilities. Simeone agreed and understood my decision and we left in good terms.”
Fernandez has not not ruled out returning to play in La Liga in the future, adding: “I will return to Spain for sure once my two years are up. I have my home in Madrid and I own a restaurant there.
“It’s clear the Spanish league is the best I’ve played in and I will evaluate the options that I have as I will be 33 then. I don’t think I will have any problems adapting to China, I left home when I was 11. I can adapt anywhere.”
Adriana Garcia is a Valencia-based football writer who covers La Liga for ESPN FC.