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Big trouble in little China for Arsenal-linked Carrasco

17:00 GMT+3 02/07/2019
Yannick Carrasco Arsenal
The Belgian star is desperate to leave the Chinese Super League for a more prestigious championship in Europe but is facing many obstacles

"The whole world knows that I want to return to Europe."

From public pleas to 'deliberate suspensions', Yannick Carrasco has done his best to secure his exit from Chinese club Dalian Yifang but currently finds himself stuck in some very murky waters.

Like an increasing number of talented players, the 25-year-old was lured to China in 2018 after three seasons with Atletico Madrid and put pen to paper on a four-year contract.

The Belgian winger unsurprisingly dominated in his first campaign with Dalian as he scored seven goals and picked up nine assists across 25 league appearances.

That strong club form meant that despite playing in China, Carrasco still managed to find his way to Russia last year as he sealed his place in Belgium's World Cup squad.

His return to China this season hasn't been quite so smooth, however, with the winger eager to return to Europe and play in a top league once again.

From his 11 Chinese Super League appearances in 2019, the Belgian has already scored eight goals and chipped in with a further two assists – demonstrating that he is perhaps too big a fish for the proverbially small Chinese pond.

With the summer transfer market now open, European clubs have inevitably begun circling as they look to strengthen over the off-season.

Among the clubs linked to Carrasco, Arsenal have emerged as one possible destination as a cheaper alternative to Wilfried Zaha.

But any such interest has hit a brick wall in China with Dalian unwilling to part with their star, despite the player's own desires.

"The whole world knows that I want to return to Europe," Carrasco told The Mirror in June.

"Now, it depends on the president and I hope he finds a solution.

"I can't speak about [Arsenal]. Now I am not the one who chooses, but my president. He decides if he lets me go or not, but I hope I can come back.”

Unfortunately for Carrasco, Dalian are owned by Wang Jianlin - one of the richest men in China with an estimated net worth of €18 billion (£16 billion/ $21 billion).

Clearly not short of funds - having just appointed Rafa Benitez as the club's new manager on a salary of £12 million (€13.4m) - Jianlin won't be swayed by a potentially lucrative transfer fee for Carrasco and has so far blocked any interest in the player.

Stuck in a Chinese limbo at arguably the peak of his career, Carrasco allegedly attempted to take things into his own hands recently as he picked up a suspension and "disappeared" while on international duty.

"The game against Shenhua, we told him to be careful, do not be cautioned by the ref. But he still deliberately delayed the restart of the game to apply for a yellow card, which led to the suspension of the next game," Dalian's former manager Choi Kang-hee said.

"After the suspension, he wanted to return to Europe earlier. We didn't want to let him go, but for the sake of the player, we agreed.

"He also promised us to come back to play the next three games. However, after the international break, he was late and even disappeared. He was also very negative in the training after his return.

"When a player has a contract with the team and he still wants to force the club to let him leave - in my opinion, this is very unprofessional."

In the aftermath of those events, Carrasco was fined and suspended from training by Dalian but he did return to the field with a bang against Beijing Renhe on June 29. He scored a penalty in a 3-1 win, having reportedly apologised to his team-mates earlier in the week.

The winger had earlier hit out at Dalian’s hierachy on social media after the club imposed a one-game suspension on him. "The attitude of some of the club's leaders and team-mates towards me is incomprehensible given my commitment and performance with the team so far. This problem needs to be solved," Carrasco sniped on Twitter.

While Carrasco has since let his undoubted abilities on the pitch do the talking, it's clear the Belgian faces a fight to secure a return to Europe anytime soon. 

Carrasco's agent Christophe Henrotay publicly declared that Dalian aren't showing any signs of budging despite claiming that Arsenal and other teams are knocking at the door.

"There are clubs that would like to sign him," Henrotay was quoted by HLN

"One club submitted a formal offer. Other clubs, such as Arsenal, also wanted to do that, but Dalian said he was not for sale." 

Talented and capable of filling a variety of positions across the front three, Carrasco would be a great signing for one of Europe's bigger sides.

But despite the Belgian's preferences, he is yet another star that appears to be trapped with no way out.