After experiencing the 2002 World Cup, members of the Chinese national football team are all eager to play abroad. Though the team did not achieve prominence in 2002, it did show it had good individual players and they are now finding they have new opportunities to join European clubs.
Following the lead of Southampton FC, another of England’s premier league teams, Everton FC showed interest in midfielder Li Tie. Though Everton was genuine in its ambition to secure Li, they offered a price so low it might well have jeopardized a deal.
At a key moment in the process, Li Tie told Liaoning Football club that he wanted so much to play abroad that he would be willing to compensate the club from his own pocket if they thought the price was too low. Moved by Li Tie’s enthusiasm, Liaoning Football club finally agreed terms and Li Tie will join Everton on loan for the season at a reported price of GBP 20,000,000.
Forward Qu Bo left for England on June 17 for an 8-day test at Tottenham Hotspur FC. This English club has had its eye on Qu Bo since the FIFA World Youth Championship in Argentina in 2001 and their interest followed him onto the field in the World Cup in 2002.
Goalkeeper Jiang Jin has also attracted international attention. Of the various European approaches to Jiang’s Tianjin Teda club, that made by Red Star Belgrade seems most promising.
In addition to this, some players who have already played overseas are actively looking for new bosses. Yang Chen has left Eintracht and is considering playing elsewhere in the German A-league or in the Spanish A-league. Xie Hui is thought likely to stay in Germany irrespective of whether this will be in the A-league or B-league.
Fan Zhiyi still wants to go abroad in spite of exhortations from his boss Xu Zexian. He said, “In some respects the domestic league just doesn’t compete with what is on offer abroad.” Only Sun Jihai seems unlikely to move as he stays to face both opportunity and challenge at Manchester United.
The career opportunities and salaries of Chinese players have certainly been influenced by their performance in the World Cup. Take Li Tie for example, after the World Cup, Southampton thought it too expensive to pay US$2 million for him, while before the World Cup both Southampton and Everton seemed to regard this as a reasonable price. As for Yang Chen, if his shot at goal had not hit the goalpost but instead gone safely into the net, he too might well have a potential new boss anxious to sign him up.
Faced with this new wave of players wanting to go abroad, many clubs have shown themselves to be very supportive and open-minded. They realize that for the players it is the best way for them to develop their playing abilities.
Unlike before, they are not holding out for high transfer fees. The Teda Club has expressed its view that it is not only to Jiang Jin’s credit but also to the honor of the club if he can play abroad, so the transfer fee is of secondary importance.
(china.org.cn by Zheng Guihong, July 25, 2002)