Rayo deal puts Zhang on path to La Liga history

China's Zhang Chengdong, 26, has been signed by Rayo Vallecano.
China's Zhang Chengdong, 26, has been signed by Rayo Vallecano. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

MADRID • Zhang Chengdong is set to become the first Chinese player to play in La Liga after Rayo Vallecano signed the winger from Beijing Guoan yesterday.

The 26-year-old will spend the upcoming season on loan at the Madrid-based club, confirmed Beijing Guoan coach Gregorio Manzano.

"Good luck and we will wait for you when you come back," tweeted the former Rayo manager.

Zhang, who scored two league goals in 40 appearances for Guoan, will not have to fly to Spain in order to get to know his new team-mates as Rayo are flying to China on Sunday to begin a five-day tour. There, they will take on another Spanish side, Real Sociedad.

Both sides are sponsored by the Chinese telecommunications company QBAO, who have stated that one of the aims of their sponsorship deal is to promote young Chinese talent.

Rayo will not be Zhang's first taste of European football. The China international, capped 18 times by his country, has played for Portuguese sides Uniao Leiria and Beira Mar. He has also played for Eintracht Braunschweig in the German second division, helping the club gain promotion to the Bundesliga.

The news of his signing comes in the week that Spanish giants Real Madrid signed China U-19 winger Lin Liangming from Guangzhou R&F for €300,000 (S$446,000).

The 18-year-old striker inked a five-year contract. He will play in the Real Madrid U-19 youth side in the European Youth League as he seeks to work his way into the La Liga line-up.

In the U-19 eight-nation tournament in Slovakia in April, Lin's performance attracted the attention of top clubs and a couple of European outfits showed their willingness to sign him. He further proved his ability during the Lisbon Cup in Portugal in June, impressing scouts with his speed and ball control.

XINHUA

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 23, 2015, with the headline 'Rayo deal puts Zhang on path to La Liga history'. Print Edition | Subscribe