Fan all for Zhang’s European union
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.”