Sunday, June 04, 2006

Players move as China takes a World Cup break

Many millions of Chinese will be glued to the blanket television coverage of the 2006 FIFA World Cup finals even though China failed to qualify and the games will mostly be shown in the middle of the night. "China has a massive number of football fans who will stay up to watch the matches, and I'm one of them," the country's Premier, Wen Jiabao, told German Chancellor Angela Merkel on her visit to Beijing last week.

In domestic news, an agent representing Beijing Guoan has confirmed the China Super League club's interest in Real Madrid midfielder Zinedine Zidane. Beijing Guoan and Changchun Yatai are both interested in bringing the French star to China for next season and the agent representing the former says Zidane hasn't knocked back the proposal. "Zidane is looking for a new stage, which is China," said the agent, as quoted by Tribalfootball.com. Beijing Guoan have a partnership agreement with Real Madrid and the CSL is actively seeking higher profile international players after this month's arrival of German and former Bayern Munich centre-forward Carsten Jancker.

However, Beijing Guo'an is currently suing German Second Division club 1860 Munich for €600,000 in a dispute over loan payments for China midfielder Shao Jiayi, a Chinese newspaper reported. Shao, 26, was loaned to TSV 1860 Munich in 2003, but state media noted by Reuters last August reported that the German club had failed to make scheduled payments on the four-year deal. The Beijing News said the club had consulted a sports lawyer at Real Madrid, who have a co-operation deal with Guo'an.

"In international legal disputes, there can't be any mishaps," the paper quoted Guo'an's general manager Li Xiaoming as saying. "We have made meticulous preparations." Shao said he had completed his contract with Munich 1860 and hoped the dispute could be settled so he could move on, possibly to newly-promoted Bundesliga club Energie Cottbus. Shao's agent said Cottbus were very interested in the player, despite his stint in Munich being marred by injury and lack of game-time.

Down Under, a Chinese Under-23 international, Zhang Xiaobin, has signed a two and a half year contract with the Victorian (state) Premier League club Kingston City FC. The 21 year old attacking midfielder had been playing for the New Zealand Knights in the Hyundai A-League but found first-team opportunities limited. Zhang Xiaobin came to England as a 16 year old, on his own, with no family or friends and without speaking the language. Despite these obstacles he did very well and won two Under-23 caps for China at the age of 18.

Although Stockport wanted to offer Xiaobin professional terms, work-permit restrictions prohibited this and forced him to look abroad. Before joining the Knights Zhang had trials with Feyenoord feeder club KVC Westerlo in Belgium, but this was cut short through injury. There was subsequent interest from PSV Eindhoven and Red Star Belgrade but it was the New Zealand Knights who made the first firm offer. Unfortunately the move to New Zealand disappointed, with Zhang starting just two games with ten appearances from the bench, and scoring one goal.

Zhang’s agent, Nigel Empson of Prosporta, feels the move to Kingston gives Zhang an excellent opportunity to get his career back on track. “The Knights struggled from the first game and were forced to adopt a very defensive approach. Naturally, as an attacking player, this restricted Xiaobin’s first-team chances. Here things are different – Kingston plays an attacking game ideally suited to Xiaobin, and they’re second in the League: I am extremely confident that he will get regular first-team games and the chance to play for an ambitious and supportive club," he told Asian Football Business Review.

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