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Dong Fangzhuo leaves Man U for Dalian

In a move as unsurprising as it was predictable, Manchester United’s Chinese international striker Dong Fangzhuo has left the club by mutual consent following a rather fruitless five years with the reigning English champions. Dong will re-join his former club, eight-time Chinese Champions Dalian Shide who are currently languishing at the wrong end of the Chinese Super League table.

Dong was ineligible to play for Manchester when he first signed due to work permit issues, and was farmed out to Belgian side Royal Antwerp to take advantage of slacker employment regulations. He spent four seasons in Belgium, all but one of them in the second division, making 70 appearances and scoring 34 goals – a respectable rate of goal every two games. However, as even the most casual football observer would doubtlessly concur, the gulf in class between the Belgian second division and the top of the English Premiership is massive and Dong made only three appearances for Man U once he was granted a work permit, and none in an important match.

Reaction in the UK sports press to the 23-year-old’s departure was somewhat unkind, with The Guardian claiming Dong would be as “remembered as one of the worst players to have ever appeared for the club.” Whilst such a description may seem a little harsh for the man who scored China’s only goal of the Olympic Football tournament, there can be little doubt that the main motivation behind his signing was a business, and not a sporting one. One hopes that Dong’s confidence is not shattered by the naked greed of Premiership chairmen and their desire to empty the pockets of China’s long-suffering football fans.

Elsewhere in Chinese football, more foreign disappointment Shanghai Shenhua’s highly-rated young goalkeeper Wang Dalei is to return to China following un unsuccessful trial with top Dutch side PSV Eindhoven. The 19-year-old keeper, who had a trial with Inter Milan two years ago, is one of China’s most highly-rated youngsters and will be in Shanghai’s squad as it makes the short trip south for a derby match against Hangzhou’s Zhejiang Lvcheng. A match report of this game will follow on China Sports Today.

Following a lay-off for the Olympics, the Chinese Super League gets back into full swing this week with a full fixture card. Surprise leaders Shanxi Baorong take on Henan Jianye, basement boys Liaoning FC face Changsha Ginde, struggling Dalian Shide take on Tianjin Teda, newly-promoted Chengdu Blades face capital side, Beijing Guoan, Wuhan Guanggu host Shenzhen Shangqingyin, and last season’s second division chamipions Guangzhou Yiyao take on second-placed Shandong Luneng.

This post was originally published on China Sports Today

A leading international commentator on Chinese football frequently quoted by the world's top media. Offers piercing and resolutely honest insights into the bustling crossroads where football, society, economics and politics meet in contemporary China. Based in Shanghai since 2005, observer of the Chinese game since 2000.

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