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A tale of two countries – Chinese footballers' British struggles

Updated: 2015-10-22 09:15

Zheng Zhi – trusted playmaker

Charlton Athletic (2006-2009)

A tale of two countries – Chinese footballers' British struggles

File photo of Zheng Zhi at Charlton Athletic. [Photo/IC]

It's rare for a Chinese player to fit into Europe as a playmaker, a position requiring the combination of skill, vision and creation.

Zheng Zhi was such a one. The Chinese captain, though once listed as one of soccer's villains by CNN for questionable behavior such as spitting at a match official and leaving France's Djibril Cisse with a broken leg after a fierce tackle, was fan favorite at Charlton Athletic for his sporadic single-handed bravery during a three-year spell at The Valley.

Zheng joined the then Premier League club in December 2006 on loan from Chinese side Shandong Luneng. He made an impressive first Premier League start on March 18, 2007 against Newcastle United, heading home in a 2-0 win.

The Londoners signed the versatile midfielder in August 2007 together with the club's relegation. Alan Pardew, now manager of Crystal Palace, formed an apprenticeship with his Chinese protégé.

Zheng was linked to West Bromwich Albion during the 2008 summer transfer window, but the possible move didn't get through.

Injury crept in during the 2008-09 season and kept the once irreplaceable player from the starting lineup on many occasions. After a brief season with Scottish Premier League side Celtic, he moved back home in 2010 to join the rising Guangzhou Evergrande, where he has been enjoying a glittering career.

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