Celtic show interest in Zhang
Scottish Premier League leaders Celtic are interested in signing Beijing Guoan midfielder Zhang Xizhe, according to Xinhua news agency reporter Zheng Daojin.
Celtic currently have a delegation in China working on deals to capitalise on the club's recent Champions League successes, as reported by the Daily Telegraph earlier this week.
However, Zheng reports that the club's chief executive Peter Lawwell confirmed that Celtic were at Beijing's season finale encounter with Qingdao Jonoon on Sunday afternoon with the intention of intensively scouting Zhang—as they look to consolidate their plans in the country with the signing of a Chinese star.
Zhang, 22, has forced his way into the country's national team over the past year and is regarded as one of the few current Chinese players capable of making a real mark on European football.
Indeed, there has been a growing sense in recent months that it will be difficult for Guoan to retain the youngster, who provided 11 goals this season and topped the Super League charts for assists with 12, appearing in all 30 league matches for the capital side.
Reports have suggested that the attacking midfielder, who is often used from the left for his country, is keen to go abroad and that his contract will expire in December 2014, meaning Beijing may look to sell this winter.
While Chinese players have a mixed record of success in Europe, Celtic have previously benefitted from the presence of several East Asian players—with Shunsuke Nakamura the most prominent.
The club also briefly played host to China captain Zheng Zhi, before his return to Guangzhou Evergrande, and central defender Du Wei, who spent a year on loan with the Parkhead side in 2005-06, although he failed to appear for the club.