International midfielder Zheng Zhi's hopes of remaining in the
English Premier League brightened when a Hong Kong billionaire
became Birmingham City's major shareholder on Monday.
Textiles tycoon Carson Yeung has been outspoken on his intention
to bring Hong Kong and mainland players to the newly promoted
Zheng shone while on loan to the joyless Charlton Athletic
outfit last season.
But after the club's relegation, his career reached a
While China's chief playmaker is guaranteed a place at his
domestic league club - Shandong Luneng - if negotiations break
down, the odds of him signing with Birmingham firmed significantly
on Wednesday when Yeung reiterated his intention to sign
"I don't have any politics and I only want to buy for interest
because I love the sport," the 47-year-old told Daily Sunshine. "I
even play soccer every week in Hong Kong.
"We are planning to buy three Chinese players - I hope the deals
will be completed in three months."
Although Yeung's assistant confirmed they were interested in
both Zheng and Mao Jianqing, China's left winger during the Asian
Cup campaign, a decision is still some time away.
Reports have Zheng currently staying in his hometown Shenyang
but refusing to comment on his future.
In a shrewd marketing ploy, Yeung also plans to open a chain of
Birmingham-themed cafes and restaurants in Hong Kong, China and
possibly elsewhere in Asia, as well as soccer training schools.
The Premier League deal, worth roughly 15 million pounds ($US31
million), will help him launch a bid for full control of
Yeung, who purchased the stake through his clothing company
Grandtop International Holdings Limited (GHIL), confirmed he was
eyeing the club's remaining shares on Monday.
If he is successful in a full-scale takeover bid, Birmingham
City will become the ninth English Premier League side to be owned
by foreigners following Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool,
Portsmouth, Aston Villa, West Ham, Fulham and Manchester City.
"The Premiership is the best league in the world and most
countries and regions focus on it - especially in China and Hong
Kong," Yeung said.
"Signing Chinese players is a good chance for the sport's
development in China.
"I hope the club will become a good platform for them. We will
also strengthen our co-operation with China Football Association in
Although some fans are concerned Yeung will intervene in
transfer deals, traditionally the preserve of club managers in
England, he will not be the first wealthy owner to do so.
Chelsea's big-spending Russian owner Roman Abramovich bought
superstars Michael Ballack and Andriy Shevchenko last season
without consulting manager Jose Mourinho.
In Manchester, three Thai internationals have secured trials at
Manchester City at the behest of new owner and deposed Prime
Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, local newspapers reported after he
took full control on Monday.
Defenders Suree Sukha and Kiatprawut Saiwaeo and striker
Teerasil Dangda will train with the team in Manchester next
Thaksin has said he expects new manager Sven Goran Eriksson to
sign at least two Thai players in addition to the latter's lengthy
shopping list, which is adorned by Olympiakos's Mexican striker
Nery Castillo and Juventus defender Georgio Chiellini.
Chinese duo play on
Another factor encouraging Zheng to continue his career in
England is national teammates Sun Jihai and Dong Fangzhuo's likely
contract extensions at Manchester City and Manchester United
They are also touted for a possible move to Yeung's Birmingham
City under Thaksin's pro-Asian regime.
But Sun, the most successful Chinese in an overseas league,
still has a year left on his contract and said he would fight for a
spot in the starting line-up under Erikson.
"I know I need some time to get used to a new team and a new
coach," Sun said.
"But I have been there for five years and I have proved that I
am capable of competing in the top league."
Manchester United has also shown trust in striker Dong's
potential, even posting a story about his burning ambition on the
"Dong says he is determined to prove he is good enough to
warrant a regular place in the Reds' first team squad," the story
Dong joined the Reds' Asia Tour squad earlier this week in Macau
after spending the last month on international duty for China at
the AFC Asian Cup.
He enjoyed 30 minutes of game time in United's 6-0 thrashing of
Shenzhen FC on Monday and hopes for further chances to prove his
prowess during the 2007/08 campaign.
"I am trying to prove I am good enough to play for Manchester
United," he told PA Sport.
"I need to train hard and work hard, but that is no problem for
"Like every Chinese player, it is tough when you move to a new
country because of the language and the fact it is a different
"But, while those three years at Antwerp were hard, in a way
they may help me because I am used to playing in Europe now."
(China Daily July 27, 2007)