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A tale of two countries – Chinese footballers' British struggles

Updated: 2015-10-22 09:15

Dong Fangzhuo – from golden boy to yesterday's man

Manchester United (2004 – 2008)

On loan to Royal Antwerp (2004 - 2006)

A tale of two countries – Chinese footballers' British struggles

File photo of Dong Fangzhuo at Royal Antwerp. [Photo/CFP]

Dong Fangzhuo became a sensation in China as the first East Asian player to sign for Manchester United in January, 2004.

The £500,000 transfer that took him to Old Trafford from Dalian Shide built high expectations on then 19-year-old. Fans believed that Sir Alex Ferguson picked him up for a reason, and that there must have been something special about him.

The youngster was soon loaned to the Belgian club Royal Antwerp because of a work permit issue. During a roughly three-year span Dong evolved from a nobody to a prolific striker. Netting 18 goals in 30 appearances, he finished the 2005-06 season as the league's top scorer.

Dominant performances made him appear another new hope of United after he was recalled to England in December 2006. However, the once unstoppable speedster stumbled at the Theater of Dreams, where for most of the time he was invisible. He only made one appearance for the Red Devils on May 9, 2007 when he started against Chelsea in a worthless match as United was already the champion of the season.

Dong went back to his old club, Dalian Shide in 2008 after a bungled England tenure turned the once wonder kid into a nobody. Since then he has traveled across Eurasia to Poland, Portugal, Armenia and back to the Chinese second-tier league, seeking to re-launch his career.

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