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Wednesday 29 May 2013

Premier League stars from the Far East: China

A look back at the players from China who have graced the English top flight

  • Dong Fangzhuo made one Barclays Premier League appearance for Manchester Utd

  • Li Tie's two-year spell at Everton was marred by injuries

  • Li Weifeng (left) had a shortlived stint at Goodison Park after arriving in 2002

For football fans in Asia, the Barclays Asia Trophy represents a great chance to see the stars of the Barclays Premier League in competitive action and to enjoy an experience similar to that at Barclays Premier League grounds in England.

Over the past decade the level of exchange between the Barclays Premier League and Asia has grown, not just through fans from the Far East having greater interest in the competition and the visits of Barclays Asia Trophy, which started in 2003. Around the same time there has been a greater influence of Asian players in the Barclays Premier League.

To date, 21 players from China, Japan and South Korea have played in the Barclays Premier League since Sun Jihai, Li Tie and Junichi Inamoto blazed a trail in 2002.

Here looks at the players from China who played in the Barclays Premier League.

Li Tie (Everton)

Li arrived at Goodison Park on a year-long loan deal in August 2002 as part of Everton's new sponsorship deal with electronics giant Kejian. The China midfielder signed a three-year deal in 2003 but a broken leg and subsequent complications effectively cut short his career with the Blues. In 2006 the versatile midfielder joined Sheffield United, where he spent two further seasons without making a top-flight appearance, before returning to China to join Chengdu Blades. While at Liaoning Whowin another serious injury enforced his retirement. He is now assistant manager to Marcelo Lippi at Guangzhou Evergrande.

Everton 2002-06: 34 appearances; 0 goals

Sheffield United 2006-08: 0 appearances; 0 goals

Li Weifeng (Everton)

Arriving at Goodison Park at the same time as Li Tie, Li Weifeng came in the aftermath of the FIFA 2002 World Cup, but the central defender’s stay was not as successful as his compatriot, and his Barclays Premier League experience was restricted to a single appearance against Southampton, before he returned to Shenzhen Jianlibao. He went on to play for Shanghai Shenhua, Wuhan Guanggu, Suwon Bluewings and Tianjin Teda and win over 100 caps for China.

Everton 2002-03: 1 appearance; 0 goals

  • Sun Jihai enjoyed six seasons at Manchester City

  • Zheng Zhi scores for Chalrton against Newcastle in March 2007

Sun Jihai (Manchester City)

The most successful Chinese player to ply his trade in the Barclays Premier League Sun Jihai made over 100 appearances in the English top flight with Manchester City. The defender first arrived in England with Championship side Crystal Palace in the 1998/99 season after signing from Dalian Wanda. After a three-year stint at Dalian Hainchang he was back in England helping Manchester City return to the Barclays Premier League and  consolidate their top-flight status in six subsequent seasons with the Citizens. During that time he became the first Chinese player to score in the Barclays Premier League, against Birmingham City in October 2002. Sun spent a further year in the second tier with Sheffield United before returning to China with Chengdu Blades and then Guizhou Renhe.

Manchester City 2002-08: 123 appearance; 3 goals

Dong Fangzhuo (Manchester United)

Born in Dalian, China, in 1985, Dong started out at Dalian Saidelong before moving, two years later, to Dalian Shide. In 2004 he became the first East Asian player to sign for Manchester United but work permit issues meant it was three years before the striker made his only Barclays Premier League appearance for the Red Devils in a 0-0 draw against Chelsea. After two seasons at Old Trafford, Dong returned to Dalian Shide. He has since played in Poland, Portugal and the United States.

Manchester United 2003-09: 1 appearance; 0 goals

Zheng Zhi

Zhi started out at Shenzhen Jianlibao before moving to Sandong Luneng, where his 29 goals helped his side win the Chinese title and attracted the attention of Charlton Athletic, for whom he became manager Alan Pardew’s first signing and made his debut against Manchester United. The striker’s only Barclays Premier League goal came on his first start, in a 2-0 victory over Newcastle United in March 2007, and although the Addicks were relegated they opted to sign the player on a two-year deal. Despite a good individual campaign Zhi could not prevent Charlton from suffering a second successive relegation and he signed for Celtic. Zhi, who returned to Chinese club Guangzhou Evergrande in July 2010, went on to captain his country and make 67 appearances for China.

Charlton Athletic 2006-07: 12 appearances; 1 goal

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Key Points

  • The sixth Barclays Asia Trophy takes place in July in Hong Kong
  • We take a look at some Far Eastern stars who have featured in the Barclays Premier League
  • Li Tie and Sun Jihai count among China's greatest exports