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Three CSL youngsters to watch when things get going again

The CSL may be best known for its world-class players over the years, such as Dario Conca, Didier Drogba, Hulk, Paulinho, Oscar, and Javier Mascherano to name a few.

However, while many of the world’s best players have decided to retire in China, there is plenty of young talent in the league. While many of these players are struggling to fight for places against big international names, some are showing why they deserve first-team minutes, albeit with the help of the CFA’s rules limiting the number of foreign players on a game-day squad.

There are a number of interesting Chinese prospects to watch in the CSL. Provided they can keep getting game time, and avoid any interference from the CFA, these players could form the backbone of the national team over the next decade. Here are the top three youngsters to watch in China’s domestic league next year.

Huang Zichang Jiangsu Suning

Known for his quick dribbling and determination on the ball, Huang Zichang had a blistering start to his Super League career, scoring five times in ten games in 2018. Despite suffering an ankle injury that put an end to his run of form, he still won the CFA Young Player of the Year award in 2018. Since then, Huang has fought to regain his place in the Jiangsu Suning first team. During 2019 Huang struggled to find a place in the starting eleven, despite his versatility.

On the national team, Huang was able to make his debut on the back of his run of form in 2018, but has only made two appearances thus far.

Tao Qianglong – Hebei CFFC

Another bright attacking player known for his speed and agility is Tao Qianglong, currently playing for Hebei China Fortune.
Tao made 18 appearances for the club in 2019 – impressive for an 18 year old.

Although he was only able to contribute one goal and one assist, his form for China’s youth teams is very strong. Tao notched 7 goals in 13 games for the under 19 squad in 2017, which is extremely impressive given he was only 16 at the time. Tao was also named in The Guardian’s top 60 young talents in world football in 2018.

Clearly, Tao has a bright future ahead of him if he can continue to secure game time and develop his ability on the wing.
Unfortunately, having to justify your place in the squad ahead of the likes of Ezequiel Lavezzi is no easy feat.
However, Tao has shown that he can do just that. He was a frequent starter during the second half of 2019, and would often come on for Lavezzi or Zhang Chengdon.

Zhu Chenjie – Shanghai Shenhua

At the tender age of 19, Zhu is a regular starter in the center of defense for Shanghai Shenhua, a team whose results were lackluster in 2019.
However, Zhu has been a standout, making his debut for the Chinese national team against the Philippines this year.

As the youngest player to ever start for Shanghai Shenhua, Zhu has a lot of potential, given he has already cemented his role in the side. Since his debut, he has also earned starts against Syria and Guam for the national team. Zhu really stands out from most of the other youngsters in the Super League in that he has shown real consistency in the short career he has had so far.

Consistency on its own doesn’t win matches, but it’s definitely a good thing to have. If Zhu can avoid injury, and keep up his form for both club and country, he has a bright future ahead of him and add to the CFA cup winners medal he gained in 2019.

WEF would like to thank Matt Brown of for this post.

Matt is a lifetime football fan with a particular love of the east-Asian game. He's been publishing football content for a number of years now, covering everything from the British Premier League to Australia's A-League. Currently he works for Lift Your Game, publishing content for athletes to help soccer players improve their performance.

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