Top 10 Best Chinese Soccer Players Of All Time

Top 10 Best Chinese Soccer Players Of All Time!! Can you name the best Chinese soccer players of all time? Well, no problem if no names pop up in your head because compared to European soccer players, Chinese players are overly underrated.

Although soccer is one of the popular sports worldwide, most of the famous soccer players are of European descent.

Today, we will look at some of China’s best and great soccer players.

Fan Zhiyi
Former Player of Crystal Palace, Fan Zhiyi, One Of The 10 Best Chinese Soccer Players (Source: CGTN)

The Chinese Football Association is the governing body for the Chinese soccer team.

The country’s first international soccer game was inaugurated in the 1913 Far Eastern Championship Games in the Philippines.

Ever since the game was introduced in the country, many great players have graced the Chinese soccer team.

This article will focus on ten of the country’s most outstanding players. Let’s look at the history of these legendary Chinese players.

Quick Overview

Here is a preview of the top 10 in the table.

Player NameAge
10. Li Weifeng44 Years Old
9. Sun Jihai45 Years Old
8. Li Tie45 Years Old
7. Zheng Zhi42 Years Old
6. Li Jinyu45 Years Old
5. Fan Zhiyi53 Years Old
4. Wu Lei31 Years Old
3. Jia Xiuquan59 Years Old
2. Li FushengDeceased
1. Hao Haidong52 Years Old

Best Chinese Soccer Players Of All Time

10. Li Weifeng

  • Position: Centre back

In our list of the best Chinese soccer players, we have former Chinese player Lei Weifeng in 10th number.

Lei Weifeng started his professional soccer career at Tianjin Locomotive youth academy in 1990.

While at the youth academy, Weifeng was spotted by the Chinese national youth program to study soccer abroad in a training program.

As a result, he was called to play in the Chinese U-20 national team.

Similarly, Weifeng was also allowed to play in the 1997 FIFA World Youth Championship.

From 1990 to 1998, he was in the youth academy, and in the 1998 league season, he made his senior debut with Shenzhen Ping’an.

Li Weifeng
Former Chinese Player Lei Weifeng (Source: Instagram)

After his senior debut, Weifeng quickly established himself as an integral part of the team’s defense. From 2002 to 2003, Shenzhen loaned him to the English soccer club Everton.

Weifeng’s notable achievements include the Chinese Super League 2004, A3 Champions Cup 2007, the Korean FA Cup 2009, THE Chinese FA Cup 2011, and THE East Asian Football Championship 2005.

Weifeng retired from his playing career in 2015, and in September of the same year, he was appointed as the vice managing director of the Tianji Quanjian team.

9. Sun Jihai

  • Position: Defender

Sun Jihai is one of the most well-known Chinese soccer players.

The former soccer player is well known for being the first East Asian player to score in the Premier League.

Jihai started his playing career in 1995 with the Dalian Shide club. His breakthrough year was in 2002 when Manchester City signed him for £2 million ($2.36 million).

He was the first Asian player to sign with the club. Soon his incredible defense and deadly attacking moves made Jihai popular among the City’s fans.

In September 2002, he was voted the club’s best player. From 2002 to 2008, he played for the City.

Sun Jihai
Former Manchester City Player Sun Jihai (Source: Instagram)

On July 2, 2008, the English Championship club Sheffield United signed Jihai for two years.

Aside from playing for various domestic and international teams, Jihai was part of the Chinese national team from 1996 to 2008.

In his long career of 22 years, he was part of the NATIONAL qualifieRS for the country’s only appearance at the World Cup, the 2002 FIFA World Cup.

Likewise, Jihai also is the first Chinese player to score in the UEFA Cup.

8. Li Tie

  • Position: Defensive midfielder

On number 8, we have a former international soccer player, Li Tie. He started his professional soccer career with the Liaoning youth academy system in 1992 at 15.

In 1998, Tie made his senior debut with Liaoning and rose to prominence during the 1999 league season.

In 2002, he was loaned to the Everton Football Club, making his debut in the Premier League side.

There was skepticism about Tie’s ability initially, but his first season with Everton was a success. Similarly, he finished in the club’s seventh place during the 2002-03 season.

Li Tie
Former International Soccer Player Li Tie (Source: Instagram)

In 2003, Everton signed Tie on a three-year contract following his successful loan run.

In 2006, he was released by Everton, and Sheffield United signed him on a two-year contract. After his contract ended, he returned to China.

Tie is one of the highest-regarded Chinese players of his generation.

From 1995 to 2007, he also played for the Chinese national team. He retired from a professional playing career at the end of the 2011 season, and Tie started his managerial career.

Tie was a former coach for Hebei China Fortune, Wuhan, Zall, and the Chinese men’s national football team.

After intense media pressure and speculation of China reaching the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, Tie quit as a coach from the national team.

7. Zheng Zhi

  • Position: Midfielder

On our 7th number is another professional soccer player and manager, Zheng Zhi. He started his football career, playing for Liaoning FC’s youth academy in 1990.

Zhi made his senior career debut with Liaoning Liaoquing in 1998.

He was signed by Shenzhen Jianlibao and Shandong Luneng Taishan, who loaned him to the English soccer club Charlton Athletic in 2007.

After a successful loan period with Charlton Athletic, the team signed him for a two-year contract worth £2 million ($2.36 million).

In 2009, Zhi left the club and was signed by the Scottish Premier League Celtic for two years.

Zheng Zhi
Former Professional Soccer Player And Manager Zheng Zhi Fighting For The Ball (Source: AFC)

Zhi is one of the most prodigal soccer players in the country. In 2010, he returned to China and has been a part of the Guangzhou football club ever since.

Since being part of the Guangzhou football club, Zhi has held the team’s helm as a captain and caretaker manager for two stints.

Likewise, he has helped the club to win the Chinese Super League a record eight times and AFC Champions League twice.

He was part of the Chinese national team from 2002 to 2019.

The former star player was appointed head coach for Guangzhou FC, eight-time Chinese Super League champions, again in August 2022.

6. Li Jinyu

  • Position: Striker

Li Jinyu is a former international soccer player and is one of the top scorers in Chinese professional League history. Therefore, we have him as number 6 of our best Chinese soccer players of all time.

Before Jinyu established himself as one of the premier Chinese strikers, he began his career with Shenzhen Youth academy in 1993. He played in the youth academy from 1993 to 1998.

Li Jinyu
Chinese International Soccer Player Li Jinyu (Source: estrepublicain.fr) 

He was a part of the U-20 Chinese national team and the 1997 FIFA World Youth Championship.

In 1998, Jinyu made his senior debut with Liaoning FC. The club loaned him to a French association football club, AS Nancy, the following year.

His career peak was in 2006 when he won the team’s Chinese FA Cup and the Golden Boot award.

Jinyu officially became the most prolific player in the 2007 league season.

He was part of the national team from 1997 to 2008. After the 2010 league season ended, he retired from his playing career and became a coach.

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5. Fan Zhiyi

  • Position: Defender

On number 6 of the best Chinese soccer players of all time, we have former international soccer player and trailblazer Fn Zhiyi.

He was among the first two Chinese soccer players to play in the English leagues.

Zhiyi was part of different youth systems between 1987 and 1993, when he started his professional career.

In 1994, he made his senior career debut with Shanghai Shenhua.

Zhiyi and Sun Jihai became the first Chinese players to play in the English league after they joined the First Division side Crystal Palace in the 1998-99 season.

Fan Zhiyi
Former Crystal Palace Player Fan Zhiyi (Source: Instagram)

With Crystal Palace, Zhiyi established himself as an integral player and became popular with fans and staff.

Similarly, he also served as the club’s captain and scored several important goals.

During his professional career, Zhiyi was part of various domestic and international clubs like Dundee, Cardiff City, Buler Rangers, etc.

He also played in the national team from 1992 to 2002 before retiring and becoming a coach.

4. Wu Lei

  • Position: Forward

Wu Lei is a Chinese professional soccer player currently signed with La Liga club Espanyol and the fourth-best Chinese soccer player of all time.

He is also the youngest player to have appeared in a Chinese professional league at the age of 14.

Lei joined Genbao Football Base in 2003 with a recommendation letter from former Chinese soccer player Li Hongbing. He made his senior debut in 2006 with Shanghai SIPG.

wu lei
Espanyol Forwarder Wu Lei During A Soccer Match (Source: China Daily) 

While playing for the Shanghai SIPG, he became the club’s all-time top goal scorer.

He was with the team until 2018 and had scored 169 goals until then.

Lei is the second all-time leading goal scorer in Chinese Super League history with 102 goals.

On January 28, 2019, he was transferred to the La Liga club RCD Espanyol. The club signed Lei on a three-year contract worth €2 million ($2.36 million).

In October of the same year, he became the first Chinese player to ever score in a European competition.

Lei is a versatile forwarder capable of playing across the frontline.

He played in the Chinese U-17 and U-20 divisions before being part of the senior team in 2010.

3. Jia Xiuquan

  • Position: Defender

In our number 3 of Chinese soccer player of all time is a former international player, Jia Xiuquan. He made his senior debut in 1976 with Bayi.

Xiuquan spent the majority of his professional playing career with bayi. Later, he also started his managerial journey, but his career was very controversial, with several MATCH-FIXING allegations.

He won the Chinese Football Association Golden Ball award in 1983, 1984, and 1986.

Because of his achievements, he was one of the first Chinese players to attract foreign clubs’ interest.

In 1987, he was transferred to Partizan, a Serbian professional football club based in Belgrade.

Jia Xiuquan
Jia Xiuquan as China PR Women’s Head Coach (Source: AFC)

Similarly, during his professional playing career until 1993, Xiuquan was signed by the Malaysian professional football club PDRM FA and by the Japanese football club Gamba Osaka.

He was the first Chinese player to play in the Japanese League.

Xiuquan was also part of the Chinese national team from 1983 to 1992. After retiring from a professional career, he began serving as a soccer coach and team manager.

2. Li Fusheng

  • Position: Goalkeeper

On number 2, we have the highest-capped goalkeeper in China, Li Fusheng. He was an international soccer player representing his country globally, making 119 appearances.

In 1972, Fusheng was able to secure his place in the youth team of the Dalian football club. The following year, he was moved to the Chengdu military football team’s senior squad and made his senior debut.

After the Bayi Football team took Fusheng into their team in 1975, his career started to flourish, and his playing ability caught a lot of attention.

Li Fusheng
Highest Capped Goalkeeper, Late Li Fusheng.Li Fusheng (Source: Sportmob.com)

As a result, he was part of the national team that played in the 1976 AFC Asian Cup.
After the tournament, Fusheng became the team’s first choice for their goalkeeper.

He was a highly regarded goalkeeper in the country despite his short playing career.

Fusheng took the role of the Bayi’s coach after his retirement in 1984.

Unfortunately, he passed away at 54 after sustaining a severe head injury.

1. Hao Haidong

  • Position: Striker

On number 1 for the best Chinese player of all time, we have a former international soccer player, Hao Haidong.

From 1980 to 1986, Haidong was part of the Bayi Football Team’s youth academy. He quickly rose through the ranks in the team and made his senior debut with the club in 1986.

Hao Haidong
One Of The All-Time Highest Goal Scorers In China, Hao Haidong (Source: Instagram)

At the beginning of the 1997 league season, he was transferred to Dalian Shide for 2,200,000 yuan ($307,023 or £260,018). It was the club’s highest record fee of that time.

Haidong moving to Dalian proved to be a huge success.

During his time with Dalian, he won numerous medals, including A league title, THE Chinese FA Super Cup, Golden Boot, and Golden Ball award in the 1997 season.

Although a gifted player, he struggled with keeping his professionalism which marred his career.

Haidong had a successful international career and played at the 2002 FIFA World Cup.

In January 2005, Haidong was transferred to Sheffield United for a record-low transfer fee of £1 ($1.18).

He also suffered from injuries and worked mainly as a coach in Sheffield’s academy.

At the beginning of the 2006 season, he retired from his professional playing career and returned to China.

Conclusion

China has been seeing a rise in the popularity of soccer. Since its first introduction in the country, the sport has come a long way.

Many soccer players have also made their way into some of the elite international soccer teams.

We can expect to see many more Chinese soccer players on the international platform in the future.

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