Newly-crowned Brasileirao champions Corinthians have raised eyebrows by signing Chinese attacker Chen Zhizhao on a two-year loan from Nanchang Hengyuan.
The 23-year-old, who can play as an offensive midfielder, out wide or up front, joined Nanchang in 2009 and immediately helped them win promotion to the Chinese Super League for the first time. Chen then hit ten goals in 30 appearances to help the Jiangxi outfit narrowly avoid relegation in 2010.
Last year Chen spent a period training with Portuguese second-flight side Trofense, where he picked up some of the language, which seemingly peaked Corinthians’ interest in his services.
He will become the second non-Brazil-born player on Corinthains’ books alongside Peruvian midfielder Luis Ramirez. Strikers Liedson and Emerson, who have represented Portugal and Qatar respectively at international level, were both born within South America’s most populous nation.
The latter is currently being coveted by his former employers, Qatari side Al-Sadd, who recently finished third at the FIFA Club World Cup Japan 2011. Despite being offered a lucrative contract, however, the 33-year-old Emerson has expressed his interest to remain a Corinthians player.
O Timão begin their Campeonato Paulista campaign at home to Mirassol on 21 January. Tite’s side make their Copa Libertadores 2012 bow against Deportivo Tachira in Venezuela on 15 February. They also have Paraguay’s Nacional and Cruz Azul of Mexico for company in Group 6.