Wigan Athletic to look into Chinese player market

Darren Royle
Darren Royle

Darren Royle has revealed Wigan Athletic ‘would love’ to sign a Chinese player in an attempt to make the most of the increased opportunities created by the takeover by IEC.

But such a deal would only be pursued if the player was good enough to justify a spot in Paul Cook’s first-team squad on his own merit.

Hong Kong-based IEC took charge of Latics last November, with Royle taking over as executive chairman.

Naturally, there has been a great deal of interest in the Far East, and speculation of how strongly Latics would look into the possibility of tapping into such a lucrative market.

The club are looking into future tours and trips to that part of the world, but bringing over a player would be on a different scale altogether.

Royle admits the club would be daft not to at least consider the possibility – but only for footballing reasons and not for a publicity stunt.

“I know the commercial director at Espanyol very well, and they’ve got the only Chinese player in La Liga,” he told the Wigan Post.

“They got something like 40 million views for his debut, so there is obviously a huge significance involved.

“We’d love to have somebody who Paul would rate highly enough to have in the first-team squad from that neck of the woods.

“As an evolving market, it’s incredible, it’s significant, and you can never have too many fans worldwide.

“The Hong Kong branch of the Wigan Athletic Supporters Club is already established, so we’ve something to build on!”

Only five Chinese players have ever moved to England – Dong Fangzhou (Manchester United), Li Tie, Li Weifeng (both Everton), Sun Jihai (Manchester City) and

Zheng Zhi (Charlton) – and that has been with only moderate success to say the least.