China star Zhang Yuning has what it takes to light up the Premier League, says West Brom boss Tony Pulis
Manager maintains the 20-year-old’s signing is more than a marketing ploy and believes he can have an impact in England
The cynics may see Zhang Yuning’s move to West Bromwich Albion as a mere marketing ploy but manager Tony Pulis believes the Chinese striker can light up the English Premier League.
West Brom’s millionaire Chinese owner Lai Guochuan signed Zhang from Dutch side Vitesse Arnhem on a three-year contract this summer, but the 20-year-old starlet was immediately sent out on a two-year loan to German club Werder Bremen.
However, Pulis believes Zhang has the quality to make it to England ahead of schedule.
“The situation is very, very good for us, that we have Chinese owners and we can get an exciting young Chinese player brought into the club,” Pulis said at the Grand Hyatt in Wan Chai.
“Now he’s got two years in Germany to prove it to himself, to prove it to us when we watch him.
“Hopefully he will reach that standard, then we can bring him back to England in a year if he does exceptionally well this year. Then China will have a centre forward playing in the Premier League which will be brilliant.”
West Brom are in Hong Kong for the Premier League Asia Trophy, where they lost on penalties to Leicester in Wednesday’s first match. They face Crystal Palace on Saturday in a third-place play-off.
Pulis and the squad went on a brief visit to the mainland on Thursday to see Lai, whose company Palm Eco-Town Development is building a “soccer town” in the Guizhou province, where West Brom’s academy will be involved in coaching local children.
“Mr Lai is starting up a soccer school, which is fantastic for the young people,” said Pulis. “We went over to be introduced to what he’s trying to do and to achieve. Fair play to him.
“He’s going to take us out on Sunday before we fly back to England. It was a half social visit but he’ll come over to Hong Kong and treat all the players and staff to a bite to eat.”
West Brom chairman John Williams has also invited the 40-odd supporters who have travelled out from England to support the team for a few drinks later on Friday.
“I hope they’ve brought some money because he [Williams] won’t be paying,” joked Pulis. “I haven’t seen him put his hand in his pocket.
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“He’ll be having a whip round – he’s not in this room at the moment so I can talk about it. Thirty to 40 people have travelled over and used it as their holiday. It’s a lot of money to come over and watch their club.
“The club thought it was right to invite them out. They’re going to see our training session tonight too and have some photos, mix with the lads. We think it’s important.”