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Real escape with hope of progress

What the papers say
By ESPN Staff

China captain Zheng to join Charlton on loan

LONDON, Dec 29 (Reuters) - China captain Zheng Zhi has joined struggling English Premier League club Charlton Athletic on loan until the end of the season, the club said on Friday.

The deal, which comes into effect when the transfer window opens next Monday, January 1, also gives the relegation-threatened Londoners an option to make the 26-year-old midfielder's move permanent.

'The versatile China captain... will join from Shandong Luneng initially for the rest of the 2006-07 campaign,' Charlton's official website said.

Zheng is new manager Alan Pardew's first signing since he took charge of the club last week.

Charlton, who have had three managers this season, lie second from bottom of the table with 13 points from 20 matches.

Zheng had a two-day trial at The Valley in late November after leading Shandong to the Chinese Super League (CSL) and Chinese FA Cup double last season and winning his second CSL player of the year title. He was named China captain in October.

'I won't deny I'm the best footballer in China, but it's only in China,' Zheng was quoted as saying in the Titan Sports Chinese newspaper.

'At the moment the most important thing for me is to keep my feet in the Premier League first.'

Zheng was banned after attacking an official during an AFC Champions League match last November and it was his tackle that broke French striker Djibril Cisse's leg in a friendly before this year's World Cup.