Sun JihaiLegendary China Footballer
- Date of Birth
- September 30, 1977
- Place of Birth
- Playing Position
Sun Jihai started his football career with Dalian Shide in 1995 and made his first appearance on 28 May 1995. Like many of the top young Chinese players of his generation, he wanted to go to the Chinese youth training camp in Brazil that was sponsored by Jianlibao. However, he was not selected as he was not deemed to possess enough potential. Sun showed great character by not letting this huge disappointment derail him and worked very hard to establish himself at his club. Sun enjoyed a successful spell with Dalian as the club won four league titles and one Chinese FA Cup title during his time there.
After three successful years at Dalian Shide, Sun along with Fan Zhiyi signed for Crystal Palace in August 1998. They became the first ever Chinese footballers to play in the English leagues. Sun made his debut for Crystal Palace in a 3-0 loss against Bury F.C. in the first leg of a 1998-99 Football League Cup match. He was recalled by Dalian who struggled heavily at the bottom of league in the 1999 season.
In February 2002, Sun signed for First Division side Manchester City from Dalian Shide for £2 million and became the first Asian player to sign for the club. He made his debut for the club in a 4-2 win against Coventry City. His solid defence and dangerous attacking forays won over many City fans. He was voted the best player for the club in September 2002. In October 2002, Sun became the first Chinese footballer to score in the Premier League when he headed home the first goal in a 2-0 win over Birmingham City.
At the beginning of the 2004-05 season, Sun damaged his cruciate ligaments in a tackle with Chelsea striker Eiður Guðjohnsen and missed the rest of the season. After recuperating and following a strict physical regimen devised by his father, Sun re-installed his place as a regular in the club’s starting lineup. In the 2006-07 season, Sun was set back yet again by another injury and he made his return on 10 February 2007, against Portsmouth which his side lost 2-1. With the arrival of Sven-Göran Eriksson as the new manager, Sun rarely played in the 2007-08 season. He was replaced by Vedran Ćorluka at right back and Michael Ball played as the defensive substitute instead of Sun.