By Peter Davis
With just a few games left in the Chinese football season, recently transferred Stephen Makinwa is sitting pretty and enjoying the game again with four goals in his first nine games for second tier side Beijing Baxy.
Baxy have a realistic shot at fifth place, a great turnaround from their relegation in the last campaign which was overturned thanks to Dalian Shide disbanding at the turn of the year.
The 30-year old Makinwa, capped 18 times by Nigeria, has had time to settle into China and reflects on tough times in Italy and Greece.
“I didn’t play at Lazio in my last year there and had problems at Larissa and now I am 30 I just want to enjoy life again and enjoy my football,” he explained to Goal’s Peter Davis .
“Before moving from Lazio to Larissa I had to cut my salary, I was there [Larissa] just because I wanted to play football but they were focused on what they could cut from my contract because they were not sure I could play many games.”
Three months ago at the end of the Chinese transfer window, Makinwa moved on from his spells in Italy and Greece with a surprise move to China.
Makinwa linked up with ex-Chinese Super League players Lu Jiang, Hu Zhaojun, Cui Wei, Lucian Goian and CSL winner Ryan Griffiths as 2013 signings to Beijing Baxy.
Makinwa backs Baxy to do well in the future but is open with his ideas on how his side can improve in 2014.
“There are good players it’s just the culture is different, in Italy was used to giving 100%, we need to make the team more competitive; from what I see here there is no competition and they take it quite easy,” he said.
“If we want to aim high we need more experienced players.Before the games everyone [at Baxy] is relaxed, laughing and I don’t know if it’s right or wrong but I am not used to it. When someone makes a mistake in training everyone is laughing which is not normal in European professional football.”
Makinwa is confident though in his coach, 36 year old Croatian Goran Tomic who had a playing career at the likes of Vicenza, AEK Athens and F.C. Salzburg and has overseen the impressive turnaround at Baxy.
“He [Tomic] is a young ambitious coach who wants to do greater things, you can see as an ex-player he has a lot of energy and he knows football, you will read a lot in the future about him,” he added.
The former Lazio striker also opened up about his decision to join Baxy which turned out to be one where money lost out to ambition.
“When I heard about China I wanted to move immediately but I chose the ambitious team over the money,” stated Makinwa.
“I was briefly on trial with Crystal Palace in England but they took a player from another side in the Premiership. For China I had just two options really, one was Chongqing F.C. and their offer was more than double Baxy’s.
“I looked at the situation and it was break time in Europe so if I am going to a team like Chongqing they will expect me to immediately perform magic which I can’t do and I did not to move for immediate pressure.”
With life at club level going well, one question though is if, at the age of 30, Makinwa could still turn out for his national side, Nigeria.
“I was able to play in two African Nations Cups and we didn’t win but the first I played in we finished third and the second we were knocked out in the quarter finals,” he said.
“I would love to [play for Nigeria again] but the competition is really tight now, I don’t think [he can play at international level again] because of the level of footballers playing now.”
Beijing Baxy finish their season with games against relegation scrappers Guizhou Zhicheng at home, Hunan Billows away and Shenyang Shenbei at home with Makinwa hoping to add to his impressive start in China so far.
Beijing-based Peter Davis watched Liaoning Whowin play Chengdu Blades in 2008 and has been hooked on Chinese football ever since. He is a regular contributor to Wild East Football and can be found on Twitter at @peteydavis