Chinese Football Association (CFA)

China World Cup player Fan Zhiyi wants more Chinese to follow Zhang’s overseas adventure

Zhang Yuning has just signed for Premier League side West Brom after two years in the Netherlands with Vitesse

PUBLISHED : Monday, 31 July, 2017, 4:07pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 28 November, 2017, 3:13pm

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 their only World Cup appearance in 2002, wants to see more players from the country follow suit.

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

“They shouldn’t only say that 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.”

China’s domestic league has experienced a significant influx of foreign talent in recent years, with big-name South Americans such as Oscar and Carlos Tevez moving to the Chinese Super League 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 Shanghai SIPG respectively, but Zhang Yuning has bucked that trend and Fan believes his development will benefit.

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

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“He always tries to use his body and I think he’ll be okay. 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 Yuning to concentrate there 100 per cent.

“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 per cent.”