Wolfsburg - The Bundesliga has welcomed its next foreign star after VfL Wolfsburg announced the signing of Xizhe Zhang from Beijing Guoan.
Bundesliga breakthrough chance
The attacking midfielder, born in 1991, is the 11th Chinese player in German professional football, but according to the man who spotted him - Wolfsburg's sporting director Klaus Allofs - he is unlikely to be the last.
"We've been monitoring the [Chinese] league and national team and there are quite a few interesting players there," Allofs told bundesliga.com. When the rest of the league catches a glimpse of the 2012 Chinese Football Association Young Player of the Year, they will likely want a taste for more.
"Chinese football is still developing, but I'm pretty certain there are plenty of good footballers there. It's something that is going to come on in the future. With Xizhe, we'll see how he adapts and settles in, then we will see what being a good player in China can translate to in the Bundesliga."
Zhang is not just a good player in China, he's an outstanding one, and it is indeed a real coup that Wolfsburg have managed to acquire his services. "He is a phenomenal player," said the chief executive of Scottish club Celtic FC Peter Lawwell in late 2013. "He left a profound impression on us. He's young and is very good both physically and technically. He's progressing all the time and showing improvement." Such an appraisal seems logical after watching a player that scored on his professional debut, as Zhang did in 2010.
That goal was followed by a total of 11 with 12 assists thrown in for good measure in the 2013 season, and all that in just 30 appearances. That year, he also debuted in the Chinese national team, scoring his first goal in September 2013 in a win against Singapore.
"He is a young player with a lot of potential," continued Allofs. "Even if the leap from China to the Bundesliga is a big one, we have every faith in him being able to manage it. Of course we are going to give him all the time he needs."
Outside China, Zhang may still be an unknown name, but that won't be the case for long: Wolfsburg have not only added a highly talented footballer to their ranks but also a potential trendsetter from a market set to explode in years to come.