China, England suffer from the same problem but different causes

By Hilton Yip Source:Global Times Published: 2014-8-11 23:28:01

China and England might be worlds apart in soccer when it comes to ­status, respect and accomplishments. But the two actually share the same ­major ­problem as well - they don't have enough ­talented players.

It comes down to the same reason - their national teams are significantly weaker compared to their domestic leagues - but the underlying factors are completely different.

Two recent articles illustrate this problem. In a BBC article on Saturday, 23-year-old English and Sunderland midfielder Jack Rodwell warned young English players not to move to his old club Manchester City because they won't get any playing time. This is because Manchester City boast a squad full of expensive and talented stars, with only a handful of English players.

Wild East Football, an English-­language site about Chinese soccer, ­interviewed Zhang Linpeng, a Chinese international and Guangzhou Evergrande defender, on Wednesday. Widely considered China's best player, Zhang, 25, is ripe for a move to Europe and has the size, experience and skills to back it up. But it may be very unlikely.

Three years ago, Rodwell made his England debut and was considered one of England's brightest prospects with a big future ahead. He then moved from Everton, a good but mid-level team, to Manchester City in 2012. Since then, he has played only 26 games over two seasons, saying that last season he "was fit and available for 47 of the 57 games," but basically wasn't picked to play.

This situation exists in many other clubs as well, with Chelsea being a ­notable example. The competitiveness of the Premier League and the wealth of its clubs, especially those owned by ­billionaires such as Manchester City, just make it so much easier to bring in foreign stars and veterans rather than take chances with local lads.

Meanwhile, China's clubs usually aren't keen to let their promising players, such as Zhang, go to foreign leagues.

China is not exactly brimming with soccer talent so clubs will refuse to ­release or sell their top domestic players. Players can supposedly leave when their contracts are up, but this being China, even this situation has complications.

Second, these clubs, such as Evergrande, are owned by wealthy magnates or conglomerates, and are not short on cash. Local transfer fees between Chinese clubs are often substantial as well. Hence the clubs can charge high transfer fees to foreign clubs for their top Chinese players and if they don't buy, it's no big deal. European clubs won't dig deep into their pockets, not when they have the whole world to find other talents.

England suffers from the fact that the Premier League is so good that young English players can hardly get on the field with their clubs. China suffers from the fact that good young Chinese ­players are so indispensable to their clubs - clubs won't allow them to leave. Ranked No.94 in the world, China's ­national team does not have a single member who plays outside of China.

England, with its soccer knowledge, culture and history, can surely find a way out of its quandary.

For China, as long as this situation continues, talented Chinese players will never get better and remain stuck at a mediocre level. The national team will never improve, much less catch up with Japan and South ­Korea, both of which have lots of players in Europe.

For the good of the nation and its long-suffering soccer fans, the authorities should probably intervene with the Chinese Super League clubs.

The author is an editor with the Global Times.

Posted in: Extra Time

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