Beijing lifeline for struggling Zhang

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China Daily, February 21, 2019
Adjust font size:
This file photo shows China's Zhang Yuning (2nd right) vying for the ball with Qatar's Luiz Junior during their Russia 2018 FIFA World Cup qualification match in Kunming, southwest China's Yunnan Province, Nov 15, 2016. (WANG LILI / XINHUA)

Before Wu Lei's transfer to Espanyol last month, Zhang Yuning was China's lone representative in Europe's elite divisions.

Now, after years of struggle, Zhang is reportedly set to return to China to join Beijing Guo'an.

According to Tencent Sports, Zhang is frustrated at his lack of game time at Dutch side Den Haag, where he is on loan from England's West Bromwich Albion.

The 22-year-old Chinese international's travails in Europe contrast sharply with the fanfare surrounding Wu's arrival in Spain, where he became the first Chinese player to ever start a La Liga match earlier this month.

Valued at around $1.7 million, Zhang managed to play just 117 minutes in six Eredivisie matches for The Hague-based club.

To compound his woes, Zhang sustained a ligament tear in his right ankle last August on international duty at the 2018 Asian Games, sidelining him for three months.

Even after returning to full fitness, Zhang found himself back on the bench.

Despite the current clamor for Chinese players to play abroad, the prospect of getting minutes under his belt makes a return to the Chinese Super League look like the right move for Zhang.

The future seemed promising for him in 2015 when he arrived at Dutch team Vitesse Arnhem to become the youngest Chinese player to sign for a European club at the age of 18.

Zhang made his Vitesse debut in February 2016 in a 3-0 win over Heerenveen. The following month, he scored his first goal in a 2-1 win against Roda.

However, he failed to cement a place in the Vitesse starting XI and in July 2017 was signed by then English Premier League side West Brom on a three-year contract for an undisclosed fee before being loaned to Bundesliga club Werder Bremen for two years.

There was only more bench-warming frustration for Zhang at Werder, and in June 2018 he departed for Den Haag.

If Tencent's report is accurate, Zhang will become Guo'an's third import from Europe during a busy offseason for the Beijing club as it bids to beef up its title credentials.

Last week Guo'an announced the signings of Hou Yongyong and Li Ke as China's first naturalized soccer players.

The 21-year-old Hou, whose mother hails from Henan province, has arrived from Norwegian top-flight side Rosenborg, where he has being playing since becoming its youngest-ever player at the age of just 16.

The 25-year-old Li is better known as Nico Yennaris in his native England, but has changed his name as part of the process to acquire Chinese citizenship.

He was a product of Arsenal's youth academy before being picked by lesser-known London side Brentford, where he spent three seasons playing as a defensive midfielder or fullback.

Guo'an also signed South Korean Kim Min-jae, nicknamed "Monster", last month. Kim is already held in high esteem by Chinese fans thanks to his commanding display in his country's victory over China at the 2019 Asian Cup.

The 6-foot-3 (190 cm) Kim has helped Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors win back-to-back Korean top-flight titles in the past two seasons and was a key player for his country as it won gold at last year's Asian Games.

Follow on Twitter and Facebook to join the conversation.
ChinaNews App Download
Print E-mail Bookmark and Share

Go to Forum >>0 Comment(s)

No comments.

Add your comments...

  • User Name Required
  • Your Comment
  • Enter the words you see:   
    Racist, abusive and off-topic comments may be removed by the moderator.
Send your storiesGet more from