England-born Nico Yennaris becomes first overseas player called up to China's national squad

The 26-year-old is known as 'Li Ke' in China

Former Arsenal and Brentford midfielder Nico Yennaris has been called up to the Chinese national team, making him the first overseas-born player to represent the country should he feature in the upcoming friendlies against the Philippines and Tajikistan.

Yennaris, who began his career as a trainee with Arsenal in 2001, left the Emirates in 2014 having made just one senior appearance for the Gunners - a League Cup win over Shrewsbury Town in 2011. The now-26-year-old spent two short spells on loan at Notts County and Bournemouth before officially departing north London, but only made two appearances for the Magpies and didn't feature at all for Bournemouth; he joined Brentford permanently five years ago.

Yennaris's career took off in south London, he made 144 appearances at Griffin Park, scoring 12 goals for the Bees, but moved to Chinese Super League outfit Beijing Guoan in January for a fresh challenge in East Asia. Since moving to China the midfielder has been granted Chinese citizenship, making him eligible for selection for the national side.

Known as Li Ke in China, Yennaris is also eligible to represent Cyprus at international level through his father, but will now link up with Marcello Lippi's 'Team Dragon' squad ahead of their forthcoming friendly matches in June. Next month's matches are a warm-up for the World Cup 2022 qualifiers which take place in September, and should Yennaris impress the Italian then it looks likely he will become a part of a China team attempting to reach their first World Cup since 2002.

Though China have so far been reluctant to integrate overseas-born players into their squads for previous tournaments, their lack of progression in recent years has called for a change of action. With many footballers now moving to the up-and-coming Chinese Super League, from various different countries, there seems to be a shift in thinking, with Yennaris the first beneficial. Beijing Guoan's John Hou Saeter and Guangzhou Evergrande's Tyias Browning - both born overseas - are expected to follow in the 26-year-old's footsteps in the near future.

It is not just players of Chinese descent who stand a chance of being called up to the national team, however, with Brazilian-born duo Elkeson de Oliveira Cardoso and Ricardo Goulart Pereira both "in the process" of obtaining Chinese citizenships, according to local media.

It has been reported that Lippi's reappointment as China's head coach - just four months after leaving the same post in January - includes a condition that he must start to introduce at lease some naturalised players into the squad within 119 days; whether he can do this, though, still remains to be seen.

d

⚡️ Bet £10 Get £50 in FREE ACCAS! ⚡️
Min stake £10, min odds 2.0. Only deposits made using Credit/Debit Cards or ApplePay will qualify. Free bets are awarded after the qualifying bet has settled, valid for 30 days, must be used on multiples with 3+ legs. Max £50 in free bets. T&Cs apply.
Claim Bonus
🔴 Bet £5 & Get £30 FREE BETS! 🔴
FIRST SINGLE & E/W BET ONLY. ODDS OF 1/1 OR GREATER. 3 X £10 BET TOKENS. FREE BET STAKES NOT INCLUDED IN RETURNS. FREE BETS ARE NON WITHDRAWABLE. NO FREE BET EXPIRY. ELIGIBILITY RESTRICTIONS. FURTHER T&CS APPLY. 18+. BEGAMBLEAWARE.ORG
Claim Bonus
🏆 £20 Risk Free First Bet - Money Back in CASH 🏆
New customers only, limited to one per person. If you’ve previously had a Paddy Power account, you will not qualify for the offer. Place your first bet on any Sportsbook market and if it loses we will refund your stake in CASH. Max refund for this offer is £/€20. Only deposits made using Cards or Paypal will qualify for this promotion. T&Cs apply.
Claim Bonus
⚡️Get up to £100 in Bet Credits⚡️
New Customers only. Up to £100* in Bet Credits. Sign up, deposit £5* or more to your account and bet365 will match your qualifying deposit in Bet Credits when you place qualifying bets to the same value and they are settled. Min odds/bet and payment method exclusions apply. Returns exclude Bet Credits stake. T&Cs, time limits & exclusions apply.
Claim Bonus
😍 Get up to £50 in Free Bets 😍
T&Cs: New users only. Min deposit £20. Place qualifying bets of £20 to £50 in first 7 days after deposit to unlock free bets. Free bet rewarded as 4 free bets that total the first deposit amount. Min odds 1/1 3+ legs & expire in 7 days. Winnings credited in cash. Full T&Cs apply
Claim Bonus
🏆 BET £20 & GET YOUR STAKE BACK AS CASH IF YOU LOSE! 🏆
New customers only. Minimum odds 1/5 (1.2). If you place a multiple at least one selection must meet the min odds requirement. Max £20 refund. Only deposits made using Cards or Applepay qualify. Qualifying bet must be placed and settled within 30 days of account opening. T&Cs apply.
Claim Bonus
🌟 Bet £5 & Get £30 in Bonuses 🌟
New Customers only. Deposit and place a £5 qualifying bet at odds of 2.00 or greater within 7 days of opening a new account; excludes cashed out bets. Receive 2x £10 Sports/Virtual Sports Free Bets, valid on set events only at odds 2.00 or greater, expires in 7 days, plus a £10 Casino Bonus, expires in 7 days. Wager the Casino Bonus 35x to withdraw winnings. Payment Cards only. Geographical Restrictions and T&Cs Apply. Please Gamble Responsibly
Claim Bonus
100% Matched Free Bet up to £10!
New UK customers only. £10 Min Deposit. 100% matched free bet on your first deposit of £10. 1 x wagering at odds of 1.75+ to unlock Free Bets. Debit Card & Paypal deposits only. This offer is valid for 7 days from your new account being registered. Full Terms apply.
Claim Bonus
When The Fun Stops. Stop.