Last night saw Sun Jihai return to Manchester and be honored by the club and crowd at halftime of Manchester City’s win over Liverpool. Sun’s time at City was during a different era for the blue side of Manchester, long before the Abu Dhabi takeover, back when the club was far more frugal. At the time, Sun was coming off the high of China’s World Cup appearance and was well regarded in international football.
Sun spent an impressive six seasons at City, scoring three goals for the club while there. He was a regular part of the squad during his first two seasons in Manchester, though later on his career was marred by a few seasons of injuries. In all, he made 130 league appearances for City.
His longevity in Manchester was down to his adaptability, at one time or another, he played in virtually every defensive and midfield position for the club. The ultimate utility player, Sun did it all for City and always gave 100%, something that made him a fan favorite (at times). However, much like the City teams he was playing on, for every great play, he tended to find two ways to frustrate the fans with bad turnovers or own goals.
It’s nice to see that City honoring players who were part of the club’s heritage but far from a legend with the team. Despite the club’s newfound riches and glory, it’s yet another way that the club keeps to its roots. No doubt honoring Sun also has to do with promoting the club in China, a not so subtle reminder during an important match against Liverpool that was watched by many across China that there are two clubs in Manchester, that Sun played for the blue one, and that they are now very, very good.
A few weeks ago when Shao Jiayi returned from Germany, I mentioned that he was arguably the greatest Chinese player abroad, though Sun Jihai is just as deserving of that title. So what say you, is it Sun or Shao or somebody else entirely?
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