Former Arsenal midfielder Nico Yennaris has claimed the Chinese Super League is similar in level to England after making his debut for Beijing Guoan.
Yennaris became the first ever naturalised Chinese national to play in the Chinese Super League after starting Beijing Guoan’s 1-0 victory away at Beijing Renhe.
The former Arsenal man played the full 90 minutes for his side and after the match he was asked how he found the level compared to playing in England’s professional leagues.
Pictures Credit: Golders/PPTV & Golders/Beijing Guoan
He said: “It’s very similar, it’s very similar. Of course in England there are a lot more foreign players and in China we are limited to three. But especially with our team it’s very similar to some teams in England, you can see the level is not far off.”
London-born Yennaris joined Arsenal’s academy at the age of seven but only made one league appearance for the Gunners before being sold to Brentford in 2014.
He went on to make 157 appearances for the Bees but was sold to Beijing on 31 January 2019 for an undisclosed fee.
Yennaris was born to a father of Cypriot origin and a mother of Chinese origin and represented England at under-19 level.
He has now become a Chinese citizen and so does not count as one of Beijing Guoan’s three foreign players. His Chinese name is Li Ke.
Guoan’s German coach, Roger Schmidt, said Yennaris did well, and that the defensive midfielder “found his pace, kept a good position and defended well”.
Yennaris told reporters that he had been learning Chinese since he found out he would be moving to the country but he spoke to reporters in English using a translator. He was filmed singing the Chinese national anthem on the pitch before the match.
Netizen ‘CQCQ’ commented: “Learn the anthem, sure, but don’t learn how to lie through your teeth about the similarities between the two leagues…”
And Jieke-Wei’erxi’er (Jack Wilshere) wrote: “Exactly which league in England are you comparing [the CSL] with?”