Thu, Jan 16, 2003 - Page 20 News List

Confident `Gazza' joins Reds

LAST-CHANCE SALOON Paul Gascoigne's possible move to China could be a last hurrah for the impudent English soccer player famous for his off-the-field shenanigans

AP , REUTERS, BEIJING AND LONDON

Former England international Paul Gascoigne shakes hands with a Chinese reporter on his arrival in Beijing yesterday. Gascoigne, once the enfant terrible of English soccer, is seeking to resurrect his footballing career in China. Liaoning soccer club has confirmed that it is sponsoring Gascoigne's trip to its training ground on Hainan Island, but said no firm deal was on the table.

PHOTO: REUTERS

Former England midfielder Paul Gascoigne arrived in Beijing yesterday, hoping to revive his soccer career with a Chinese club.

"Am I confident? Yeah, I'm confident," Gascoigne said on arrival at Beijing's Capital Airport.

"My physique is good. My football is good. I don't have any problems," said the 35-year-old, who has been without a club since leaving first division Burnley at the end of last season.

He was due to try out with first division side Liaoning Bodao later this week at the team's winter training camp on the southern island province of Hainan, Liaoning chairman Cao Guojun said.

Cao said Gascoigne had contacted his team via the agent for former Liaoning midfielder Li Tie, now playing for Everton in the English Premier League.

"Gascoigne has been around a long time. We understand him very well," said Cao.

But he said no deal had been reached.

"For him, the first thing is whether or not he can adapt to our game. After all, he is getting old," said Cao. "We're looking more at his capabilities than at his reputation."

"If he can deal with everything, it is possible we'll sign him."

Roll of honor

Gascoigne won 57 caps for his country.

He has played for Newcastle United, Tottenham Hotspur, Lazio, Rangers, Middlesbrough, Everton and Burnley and helped England reach the semifinals of both the 1990 World Cup in Italy, famously shedding tears at their exit on penalties to Germany, and also of Euro '96.

However, the ball skills and vision which made him probably the most gifted player of his generation were also held back by a volatile temper and sporadic bouts of heavy drinking.

Cao could not confirm foreign and Chinese media reports saying Gascoigne could try out with four other clubs in China.

The ex-England star's possible move to the Chinese league would be the latest football exchange between China and England.

Three Chinese internationals now play in the Premier League, including two at Everton, who have a shirt sponsorship deal with Chinese mobile phone maker Kejian.

Liaoning Bodao plays in Beijing. Cao moved his club to the capital from its hometown of Shenyang, in Liaoyang province, last year.

"Gazza" was once regarded as one of the biggest talents in world soccer, but is now struggling to find someone who will take him on.

He has slimmed down in order to get a job and told reporters before he left for China that he was ready to play ball.

``I've trained really, really hard. I had other options but things didn't go right so this is a challenge for me and I can't wait.

``I can't wait to get back on the football field. It's been a while. ... And now this gives me an opportunity for me to get playing again, back on the field and hopefully proving a few people wrong again.

``This is an opportunity for me to get out of an England and go over there [China] and enjoy myself,'' he said at Heathrow airport before boarding his flight.

``I'd like to offer the game what Paul Gascoigne can do on the pitch and that's hopefully play good football and entertain the fans.''

He hasn't been so lucky on his other departures from England.

Gascoigne flew to Washington to try to persuade DC United to take him on but the Major League Soccer club was far from impressed by his physical state. Although he had lost a lot of weight, it had left him weak and short of pace.

Roll of shame

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