Chelsea look to China in search of alternative to Stones

Five Chinese players have previously appeared in the Premier League.

Both Li Tie and Li Weifeng had brief spells at Everton, Zheng Zhi was Alan Pardew’s first official signing for Charlton, striker Dong Fangzhou barely played for Manchester United and Sun Jihai became a reliable full-back for Manchester City.

It’s been seven years since the most recent, but this could be about to change in the relatively near future as champions Chelsea look at alternative options to John Stones in their need to bolster their defensive options.

Everton have continued to reiterate that their England international is not for sale despite the defender handing in a transfer request and Chelsea reportedly making a fourth rejected offer, this time of £37 million.

Jose Mourinho’s team seem to have finally now got the message that their defensive search will have to continue elsewhere, with Real Madrid’s Raphael Varane and Zenit St Petersburg’s Ezequiel Garay considered to be towards the top of the shortlist.

A more outlandish name to feature is that of Zhang Linpeng, who has racked up the trophies over the last five years at Guangzhou Evergrande, a club arguably more famous for signing Robinho and Tottenham flop Paulinho this summer ahead of lifting the 2013 Asian Champions League.

Linpeng has a strong grounding after coming through the respectable Genbao academy and doesn’t follow the stereotype attached to many East Asian footballers, as he is tall, well built and physical.

There has long been the opinion that he has the capacity to move to Europe to play at a higher level and he would also provide Chelsea with the added versatility of being able to operate at right-back.

However, should the two clubs reach an agreement, it is highly unlikely that ‘Zhangmos’ would be granted a work permit to play in the Premier League immediately despite closing in on 50 caps for China.

This is due to English work permit rules making this especially difficult for non-European players who represent a nation outside of those ranked in the top 50 in world football by FIFA. Iran are the only Asian team currently inside the top 50.

Chelsea’s defence has been far from watertight in the opening three league games of the season, conceding seven times. They only let in 15 in the whole of Mourinho’s first full campaign in charge in 2004/05.

Up next is Crystal Palace, where Chelsea are 6/5 to win to nil and 10/11 to simply keep a clean sheet.

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Craig Kemp

Craig has written for Ladbrokes since the 2010 World Cup, having previously gained a Media & Sports Journalism degree and contributed to publications including the Racing Post. His main areas of interest are horse racing and UFC, but he is also an avid X Factor gambler and likes nothing more than indulging in a spot of Hip Hop Karaoke.