Combine a sharp businessman who sees the commercial potential of soccer in China and a faded, overweight football star with a famous name but an empty pocket and you come up with the Diego Maradona brand of sportswear for sale around the world. As president of the Italy China Commercial Group, Chen Honglei has signed a contract with the former Argentinian football star to set up the Maradona company in Italy, with a branch also slated for Shanghai. The company is hoping to cash in on Maradona's popularity in China and will next year launch clothes, shoes, socks, cigarette lighters and other products bearing the footballer's name, with an annual sales target of five billion yuan (HK$4.64 billion). In August, Mr Chen bought 70 per cent of Italian second division football team Palmese Calcio at the invitation of the city government. 'Football is a spiritual pillar of Italy and a company must make best use of this,' he said. Italy-based Mr Chen, 37, is the latest businessman to see the commercial potential of football in the mainland, where it is the most popular sport and foreign players are more famous than their local counterparts. Shenzhen mobile-phone maker Ke Jian is already sponsoring English Premier League team Everton for two seasons, while Real Madrid was in China for 10 days this summer with David Beckham to spread their brand name. Maradona arrives in Beijing today for a tour to promote the brand, which aims to challenge the products of Li Ning, the Olympic gold-medal gymnast who has set up his own line of sportswear. A spokeswoman for Modang Commercial Global Development in Wenzhou, which will manufacture the Maradona products in China, said Maradona owned 25 per cent of the company and Mr Chen held the balance. 'We will produce sportswear, including football strips and balls, in China, Italy and France, to sell domestically and abroad. Each will carry an insignia of Maradona and an embroidery of him running. We will make the higher-quality products in Europe and the lower-quality ones in China,' she said.