China to send teenagers to European clubs

BEIJING - China will send up to 500 teenagers to train at top European clubs over the next five years, according to the Chinese Football Association (CFA).

The plan by China's new football chief Wei Di is aimed at developing the country's most talented players between the ages of 15 and 17, who are expected to spend two or three years at various European clubs in small groups of five or six.

"We are working on the details of the project. There will be 80-100 players dispatched to Europe each and every year from this year on," CFA spokesman Dong Hua told Reuters by telephone.

Chinese media said Spain's La Liga would be the major destination as Wei believes there is a similarity in body size and strength between Chinese and Spanish footballers.

"We have been in good cooperation with many European FAs and clubs," said Dong.

"We want our young players with the best potential to train in the Spanish, English, German, Italian and Dutch leagues, which have the highest standards of youth development."

This will be the latest attempt by China to produce elite footballers through training overseas, following the first squad sent to Hungary in the 1950s and more recent groups who spent long periods in Brazil and Germany.

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