Fan all for Zhang’s Euro­pean union

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - SPORTS -

HONG KONG — China World Cup de­fender Fan Zhiyi has called for more play­ers from the coun­try to fol­low in the foot­steps of striker Zhang Yun­ing and test them­selves in Europe’s lead­ing leagues.

Zhang, who spent the last two sea­sons play­ing in the Nether­lands with Vitesse, signed a three-year con­tract with West Bromwich Albion in early July be­fore being im­me­di­ately sent on a two-year loan to Bun­desliga side Werder Bre­men.

The 20-year-old is the only mem­ber of China’s na­tional squad cur­rently play­ing in Europe and Fan, who played a key role in qual­i­fy­ing China for its only World Cup ap­pear­ance in 2002, wants to see more play­ers from the coun­try fol­low suit.

“For me, they should try,” said Fan, who had spells at Crystal Palace, Dundee and Cardiff City dur­ing his play­ing ca­reer.

“They shouldn’t only say ‘I can play in Europe.’ They should try. There’s a dif­fer­ence.

“If they are good they can stay there, but if they don’t have a chance then they can come back. But they have to try.”

The Chi­nese Su­per League has ex­pe­ri­enced a sig­nif­i­cant in­flux of for­eign tal­ent in re­cent years, with big-name South Amer­i­cans such as Os­car and Car­los Tevez ar­riv­ing for huge salaries.

The coun­try’s best tal­ent has also ben­e­fited fi­nan­cially, with na­tional team play­ers see­ing in­creases in the amounts they can earn as clubs seek to en­sure the best Chi­nese play­ers re­main at home.

While play­ers such as Zhang Lin­peng and Wu Lei were linked with moves abroad, they have stayed at Guangzhou Ever­grande and

They shouldn’t only say ‘I can play in Europe.’ They should try. There’s a dif­fer­ence.”

Shang­hai SIPG re­spec­tively, but Zhang Yun­ing has bucked that trend and Fan be­lieves he will im­prove as a player at Werder and West Brom.

“I think Zhang will be OK be­cause he was in the Dutch league for two years,” said Fan, who was named Asia’s Player of the Year in 2001.

“He al­ways tries to use his body and I think he’ ll be OK. He’ ll try to do his best in Ger­many. He’s the only Chi­nese player, so I hope he can do well there. I re­ally want him to con­cen­trate there 100 per­cent.

“It’s dif­fi­cult go­ing there and play­ing as a striker, ei­ther in the UK or Ger­many. But I think he’s ready be­cause he’s had two years’ ex­pe­ri­ence in the Dutch league.

“There’s only one thing he must do: ev­ery train­ing ses­sion, ev­ery game he must give 100 per­cent.”

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