Paulinho and the 6 Other Players Who Have Been Sold to Europe for a Profit by Chinese Clubs

It's happened. It's real. Paulinho has moved to Barcelona from Guangzhou Evergrande for an entire €26m more than they paid Tottenham for him - and in the process, become only the seventh player a Chinese club has sold to Europe for a profit, rather than the modern trend of very much the reverse. Time, then, to take a look at the six men who have previously trodden that path. Oh, and for the record? Chinese clubs have also sold Muriqui (Al-Sadd, Qatar), Mark Milligan (JEF United Chiba, Japan)...

Zheng Zhi - Shandong Luneng Taishan to Charlton (2007)

After moving from Shenzhen FC to Shandong Luneng Taishan for under £1m, Zheng enjoyed the most prolific spell of his career - banging in 31 goals from 45 games to convince Charlton to take a punt on him. 


Alan Pardew took the then 26-year-old China international on loan at the start of 2007, making the move permanent for £2m the following summer. Two years of decent first-team football at the Valley ended when the Addicks went down to League One, with a season at Celtic coming before a return to China with Guangzhou Evergrande. 


Turning 37 this week, Zheng still skippers the Chinese national team and is closing in on 100 caps. 

Stojan Ignjatov - Beijing Guoan to Politehnica Iasi (2008)

Technically a journeyman...probably. 


Pinballing around briefly between Turkey and Macedonia, Stojan Ignjatov moved on a free transfer from Rabotnicki Skopje to Beijing Guoan in January 2008 after winning the Macedonian league in 2005 and 2006. 


He made it an entire spring at the Chinese club before leaving for Politehnica Iasi for £225,000, having played one whole league game. Good business...probably?

Aboubakar Oumarou - Guangzhou R&F and Red Star (2009)

Aboubakar Oumarou took an unusual route into the game for a Cameroonian player, starting his career in with Chinese club Yanbian FC and moving to Changsha Ginde (now Guangzhou R&F) shortly afterwards. 


A couple of impressive seasons there saw him move to Serbian giants Red Star Belgrade for about £100,000 - but his time at the Rajko Mitić Stadium didn't yield much success. That didn't stop his career flourishing in the country though, playing for OFK Beograd and Vojvodina before a brief stint in Belgium. 


Oumarou even made a Cameroon appearance in that time, returning for two more when he went back to Serbia with Partizan for a season before heading to Shenzhen in the Chinese League One in 2016 to complete his career circle. 

Marius Radu - Tianjin Teda to Gaz Metan (2009)

Chinese football hasn't had a bold history of foreign defenders - but Romanian centre-back Marius Radu headed east on a free transfer from FC Argeș to Tianjin Teda; current home of John Mikel Obi. 


18 months and 22 league games later, he was sold back to Romania - signing for Liga 1 side Gaz Metan for £90k. In his remaining six years in the game, he played for three further clubs...but none outside of Romania. Home comforts, eh?

Zhang Xizhe - Beijing Guoan to Wolfsburg (2015)

Having come through the youth system at Beijing Guoan, Zhang looked like a real prospect - winning China's Young Player of the Year award in 2012 and, as he progressed, earning a move which was reported as being worth anything between €750k and €1.5m. 


However...it didn't work out in Germany. At all. Just six months into his two-and-a-half-year contract with the Bundesliga side, Beijing bought him back - reportedly for more than they originally sold him for. Oops. 

Zhang Yuning - Hangzhou Greentown to Vitesse (2015)

One of the brightest young hopes in the Chinese national team setup, Zhang Yuning burst onto the scene when he came through Hangzhou Greentown's academy - scoring on his first team debut at the age of just 18. 


That proved to be the only game of his Greentown career, getting snapped up by Eredivisie side Vitesse for a fee of around £100k - before scoring twice on his international debut last summer. 


While he struggled to adapt to Dutch top flight football, making most of his appearances off the bench and scoring just three league goals, his potential - and marketability - convinced West Brom to shell out the best part of £8m for him this summer before loaning him out to Werder Bremen for two seasons. 

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