Jackson Martinez to join Guangzhou Evergrande

Atletico Madrid's Jackson Martinez, right, vies for the ball with Rayo Vallecano's Ze Castro during the Copa del Rey second leg soccer match between Atletico Madrid and Rayo Vallecano at the Vicente Calderon stadium, in Madrid, Thursday, Jan. 14, 2016. Atletico Madrid won 4-1 on aggregate and moved to the next round. (Francisco Seco/AP)

BEIJING — Guangzhou Evergrande of the Chinese Super League said Wednesday it has signed Atletico Madrid striker Jackson Martinez for a new record sum in the Asian transfer market.

The 29-year-old Colombian has signed to a four-year contract for a fee of $45.8 million (42 million euros), the club said on its website. It said Martinez will join winter training in Dubai on Feb. 9 after completing his physical exam.

"We firmly believe that the additional of international football star Jackson Martinez will strengthen our attack … providing more exciting performances for everyone," the team said in a statement.

Despite a slowing economy, Chinese clubs have continued to splash out big sums for foreign talent, hoping for greater glory in both the long-underperforming domestic league and international competition.

Among the biggest spenders is Shanghai Shenhua, who signed French striker Demba Ba, and Jiangsu Suning, which paid a reported transfer fee of $36 million (33 million euros) for Chelsea's Ramires, until then a record for Chinese football.

Guangzhou Evergrande, for its part, picked up Brazilian internationals Paulinho and Robinho.

In all, Super League teams spent 108 million euros ($118 million) on players and coaches in the 2014-2015 transfer market, according to statistics from by Germany's Transfer Market, placing the league second behind the English Premier League.

The spending has been fueled both by big-name sponsorships from the likes of Internet commerce giant Alibaba and a record $1.25 billion (1.15 million euros) broadcast deal signed last year with Beijing-based Ti'ao Dongli -- double what state broadcaster CCTV was offering.

That also jibes with a restructuring of the government's football management structure following calls from officials as high as president and Communist Party chief Xi Jinping to raise China's level of play. The national team has been a persistent laggard, qualifying for only one World Cup finals.

That already seems to be paying off and under the stewardship of former Chelsea and Brazil boss Luiz Felipe Scolari, Super League champion Guangzhou last year became the only Chinese team to win the AFC Champions League twice.

Martinez had impressed as a member of his national team and FC Porto, but was seen as underperforming at Atletico, to which he transferred last year for a 35 million euro fee. He scored just three goals in 22 appearances for the 2014 Spanish champions, leading many to call the signing a bust.

In its statement, Guangzhou praised Martinez as "a team training model, an extremely effective team leader trusted and relied upon by his teammates who maintains strict discipline off the pitch and steers well clear of distractions."