The incredible story of Dario Conca, who was the third highest-paid player behind Messi & Ronaldo
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Little known Argentine Dario Conca was once the third highest paid player in world football, behind only Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.
Rewind to 2011, Conca was playing for Brazilian club Fluminense and played a key role in helping the side win their first Brazilian championship since 1984. He was also voted as the best player in Brazil’s Serie A in 2009 and 2010.
As a result of his performances, many clubs around the world became interested in his signature.
However, the midfielder decided against a move to to Europe, instead signing for Chinese Super League side Guangzhou Evergrande, who offered him a lucrative deal.
The Chinese club shelled out a then record of $10 million for Conca, who penned a two and a half year deal that saw him rake in £170,000 a week, becoming the third best paid player in the world.
Whilst Messi and Ronaldo battled it out for Champions League trophies and Ballon d’Or awards, Conca impressed in China as he racked up 99 appearances in three seasons, notching 54 goals.
However, despite his impressive performances, he had his fair share of controversial moments.
Conca was banned for nine matches by the club after he questioned the manager’s decision to sub him off during matches.
He said: “I don’t understand why they always sideline me with the excuse that I’m exhausted and need rest. How could I have scored a crucial penalty if I’m not in condition? And why does the coach always have Conca take a rest?”
In the middle of his suspension, the club appointed former World Cup winning manager with Italy, Marcello Lippi, who subsequently cut Conca's suspension short.
During his time with Guangzhou, he helped the team win three Chinese Super League titles in a row and also the AFC Champions League.
He then left China to return to Fluminense, which saw his wages drastically drop from £170,000 a week to just £8,000 a week.
But it wasn't long before Conca was lured back to China when Sven Goran Eriksson signed him for Shanghai SIPG.
Eriksson said: “Conca is like Messi, he is the same size, he is left footed, he is a fantastic dribbler and he makes and scores a lot of goals.”
“When I came here, he was the one player I wanted more than any other.”
In 2019, Conca announced his retirement from football at the age of 36. Throughout his career, he earned more than £50 million despite never making a single appearance for Argentina.
He told GloboEsporte.com in 2019: “Football has given me a lot, I love this career, it was fantastic for me, but today I think it’s the right time for me to stop.”
“I was not thinking about football today. It gave me a lot, I’m very grateful for everything, I managed to make a career, to have recognition.”