English Premier League

Wolves signing David Wang set to follow English Premier League’s Chinese pioneers at Manchester City and Everton

  • China’s 2002 World Cup squad paved the way with Sun Jihai in England’s National Football Museum Hall of Fame after making over 100 appearances for Manchester City
  • Dong Fangzhou received guard of honour led by John Terry in his only league game for Manchester United
PUBLISHED : Thursday, 03 January, 2019, 8:03am
UPDATED : Thursday, 03 January, 2019, 12:30pm

Wolverhampton Wanderers have announced the signing of the highly rated youngster David Wang.

The 18-year-old joins the Chinese-owned English Premier League club from Spanish side Jumilla, a club also owned by Fosun.

Also known as Wang Jiahao, the forward turns 19 later this month and will initially be loaned to Sporting Lisbon in Portugal to develop in the club’s reserves.

Born in Spain, Wang first played futsal before turning to football and has featured for a number of Spanish sides, including Real Murcia B.

He was named as one of the best 60 youth talents of 2017 in British newspaper The Guardian’s annual list and speaks fluent English, Spanish and Chinese.

If and when he makes his debut for the Molineux side, Wang will become one of only a handful of Chinese players to have played professionally in England.

Those who blazed the trail did so to varying degrees of success.

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Dong Fangzhou

Manchester United’s first ever East Asian footballer joined from Dalian Shide as a 19-year-old in January, 2004. He was immediately loaned out to feeder club Royal Antwerp to qualify for a work permit.

Dong played in all of United’s three games on their Asia tour the following summer, although he remained ineligible to play in their upcoming Premier League season.

After impressing in Belgium, he finally made his Premier League debut in 2007 having been given a squad number in January.

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He partnered current United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in attack for the May visit to Stamford Bridge, a game remembered for Chelsea giving the visiting champions a guard of honour on to the pitch. That appearance lasted 73 minutes before Dong was replaced by Wayne Rooney.

Dong told Chinese media at the time that he had no regrets despite only making three first-team appearances in all, two of them in the League Cup, and his contract was cancelled by mutual consent in 2008.

He retired in 2014 and was in the headlines for seeking plastic surgery to escape his unwanted fame.

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Li Tie

Arriving at Everton on loan from Liaoning in June 2002 in a deal brokered by new shirt sponsors Kejian, Li Tie made the move permanent a year later, again with the backing of the sponsors, and was a regular in David Moyes’ team, although his appearances were limited by injury.

In the heyday of Chinese Premier League players, Li and Sun played against one another three times when Manchester City and Everton met in the 2002-03 season and in December of the following season.

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Released in August 2006 after over 40 appearances for the club, Li signed for Sheffield United, who at the time had a partnership with Chinese club Chengdu Blades.

He made just one appearance for the club in the League Cup.

Since finishing his career in China he has moved on to coaching and has just taken Wuhan Zall to the Chinese Super League, a feat he also managed with Hebei China Fortune.

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Li Weifeng

The defender moved to the Merseyside club from Shenzhen Ping’An in another move masterminded by Kejian. Li played once in the Premier League and once in the League Cup for the Toffees.

He played alongside Li Tie in the 1-0 win at Southampton in the Premier League in September 2002, the first time two Chinese players had played for the same side in the English top flight.

Li Weifeng moved to China soon after and finished his playing days there with Tianjin Teda in 2015.

He has since worked at Tianjin Quanjian.

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Sun Jihai

Without a doubt the most successful of all of China’s exports to England, Sun arrived in England in 1998 with Dalian Shide teammate Fan Zhiyi when the pair were signed by Terry Venables for Crystal Palace in the old First Division.

Sun moved to Manchester City in 2002 and took the club up to the Premier League in that first season.

He became the first Chinese player to score in the Premier League and scored a further three times for City as he made 130 appearances.

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Sheffield United came next but he failed to settle and moved home with Chengdu Blades, only calling time on his career in 2016 after a season with Beijing Renhe.

Sun is in the English National Football Museum’s Hall of Fame, a move that coincided with Xi Jinping’s visit to Manchester and City Football Group’s Chinese investment.

The 41-year-old is an ambassador for the English champions.

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Zheng Zhi

The China captain and one of Asia’s finest ever footballers had a brief dalliance with the English top flight when he joined Charlton Athletic from Shandong Luneng in 2007, initially on loan before sealing a permanent move.

He came on as a substitute against Manchester United for his debut and soon opened his account against Newcastle United

Zheng impressed even more when Charlton went down to the second tier, before he moved to Celtic.

He returned to China with Guangzhou Evergrande and is still playing at 38. He is in the China squad for the AFC Asian Cup and is set to add to his 100 caps in the UAE.

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Fan Zhiyi

While he never played in the Premier League, Fan joined Palace with Sun to become first Chinese footballers in England. The centre back was also an unqualified success.

His performances with Palace saw him become a cult hero and he was linked with a move to the top flight. That never came, and instead he moved to Dundee in Scotland and later Cardiff City.

Fan finished as Palace’s player of the year in 2001.

Since retiring with Hong Kong Rangers he has been involved in coaching in China.

Hao Haidong

Signed for just £1 (US$1.28), Hao was another Chinese player to feature for Sheffield United. Hao ended his career with the Bramall Lane club after injury limited him to just one appearance, coming off the bench in the FA Cup.

That January 2006 appearance came a year after signing and it was a case of what might have been for the finest striker of his generation as he only moved to England at 34. He retired in 2007 and has been involved in grass roots football.

Zhang Yuning

The player most similar to Wang in that he was signed as a youngster by a Chinese-owned club and immediately loaned out. Zhang arrived at West Bromwich Albion from Vitesse Arnhem at the start of the 2017-18 season before being sent to Werder Bremen in the German Bundesliga. He did not play at all last season and has since been loaned to ADO Den Haag in the Netherlands for this season.