Fan Zhiyi wants more Chinese players to follow Zhang Yuning and head to Europe’s top leagues
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Fan Zhiyi wants more Chinese players to follow Zhang Yuning and head to Europe’s top leagues

FAN Zhiyi – the first Chinese footballer to play professionally in England – wants more players from his homeland to follow young striker Zhang Yuning by testing themselves in Europe’s top leagues.

Fan, who represented China at the 2002 World Cup, played for Crystal Palace, Dundee and Cardiff City across five seasons in the United Kingdom.

Zhang signed a three-year contract with English Premier League side West Bromwich Albion earlier this month, before being sent out on a two-year loan to Werder Bremen in Germany’s Bundesliga.

The 20-year-old previously spent two seasons with Vitesse in the Netherlands and is the only member of the China national squad playing in Europe.

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But Fan wants to see more players try their luck overseas.

“For me, they should try,” he said. “They shouldn’t only say that I can play in Europe, they should try. There’s a difference.

“If they are good they can stay there, but if they don’t have a chance then they can come back. But they have to try.”

While a number of highly-paid foreign stars such as Carlos Tevez and Oscar have moved to the Chinese Super League in recent years, homegrown players have also benefited financially.

Players such as Zhang Linpeng and Wu Lei were linked with moves abroad but have stayed at Guangzhou Evergrande and Shanghai SIPG, respectively.

Zhang has taken a chance on moving to Europe, though, and Fan believes his development will benefit. The young forward has looked sharp in pre-season, scoring twice in two games for Werder Bremen.

“I think Zhang Yuning will be OK because he was in the Dutch league for two years,” said Fan.

“He always tries to use his body and I think he’ll be OK. He’ll try to do his best in Germany. He’s the only Chinese player so I hope he can do well there. I really want Yuning to concentrate there 100 percent.

“It’s difficult going there and playing as a striker, either in the UK or Germany. But I think he’s ready because he’s had two years’ experience in the Dutch league.” – Reuters.