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Zhou defies CFA rule, joins PSV

CHINA midfielder Zhou Haibin has bid farewell to Chinese Super League defending champion Shandong Luneng, revealing in Shanghai yesterday he signed a contract with Dutch league champion PSV Eindhoven and would soon be leaving for the Netherlands.

Zhou's contract with Shandong expired at the end of last season, and he had since been negotiating a move to the Dutch champion. With his name registered with PSV, Zhou has been dubbed "China's Bosman," a reference to Jean-Marc Bosman, a Belgian player best known for his judicial challenge of the transfer rules that led to the famous Bosman ruling in 1995.

The landmark judgment completely changed the way soccer players were employed, allowing professionals in the European Union to move freely to another club at the end of their contract.

Thanks to Bosman, it's now routine for a player to join another club freely after finishing his contract. But, this is still a challenge to the workings of the Chinese football market as the CFA (Chinese Football Association) has a years-long policy: Chinese clubs retain the registration of players for another 30 months after the expiration of their contracts, otherwise, a "transfer fee" is to be given by the new club.

That's why Zhou's deal with PSV, despite objections from Shandong, captured the fancy of the Chinese media.

Zhou, 23, however, insists that PSV and Shandong have since reached an agreement over an unknown "transfer fee."

"My new club (PSV) has been dealing with my transfer according to international rules," the midfielder told reporters in Shanghai yesterday, his first comments on the transfer saga.

"I am thankful to Shandong Luneng, for shaping my career and for the 10 years (five years on the senior squad) I spent with the team.

Emotionally linked

"I feel emotionally linked to Shandong, that's why I rejected PSV's offer when the team approached Shandong last August. But since I've now finished my contract, I feel it's time for me to move on and find a better future for myself."

Romain Wu, Zhou's agent, described Zhou's talks with Shandong and the CFA as smooth and friendly, since Shandong will receive "compensation" from PSV.

"I'm willing to sacrifice part of my package to slash my former club's losses to make it (the deal) work," said Zhou. "If I return to the CSL from the Netherlands, Shandong will be my first choice."

The CFA's "transfer fee" policy seems to be against international rules. However, given the unsteady and immature environment of Chinese football, the policy helps protect smaller clubs by giving them a financial guarantee for losing big players, which helps maintain competitive balance.

Zhou won two CSL titles in six years at Shandong.

His national teammate Sun Xiang, then from Shanghai Shenhua, played a handful of games on loan for PSV in 2007 -- during which time he came the first Chinese footballer to play in a Champions League match.


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