West Brom have signed Chinese striker Zhang Yuning from Vitesse Arnhem for an undisclosed fee.
He has agreed a three-year deal but has immediately been sent out on a two-year loan to German side Werder Bremen.
Zhang, 20, made his international debut in June 2016, scoring twice against Trinidad and Tobago, and has made nine appearances for Marcello Lippi’s side.
Zhang joined Vitesse from Hangzhou Greentown in 2015 and played alongside Chelsea loanee Lewis Baker, scoring four goals in 27 Eredivisie appearances, and was part of the team which won the KNVB Cup last season.
West Brom said Zhang would not have been granted a work permit as China sit outside the top 50 in FIFA’s world rankings and saw the Bundesliga as ideal for his development as a player while admitting the signing was expected to “trigger unprecedented interest in the Far East” in the club.
The Baggies statement added that the deal “aligns strongly with the commercial strategy of Albion’s controlling shareholder Guochuan Lai in his efforts to grow the club’s profile in his homeland”.
“His progress will be the subject of great interest here at Albion but also in Germany and in China,” said Albion technical director Richard Garlick.
“Zhang will get the chance to further develop at Bremen, with whom we have an excellent relationship.
“He will be challenging for a place in a top European league and we will be monitoring his progress before reassessing his prospects at the end of the loan period. There is no doubt he has a lot of qualities which Bremen are well-positioned to grow and develop.
“His progress will be the subject of great interest here at Albion but also in Germany and in China. There is no doubt that there are commercial benefits that come with the deal but the primary target is to help develop one of the best young players in a booming corner of the football industry.”