One of the silliest rumours in Silly Season might turn out to be true after all. Maybe.
After Chinese defender Zhang Linpeng claimed that Chelsea have made contact to discuss a transfer move from Guangzhou Evergrande to the Premier League, an anonymous club official confirmed the Blues' approach to Xinhua News Agency. But they still have reservations in letting go of the player, and want some guarantees from Chelsea's part. Keep in mind, the source is anonymous, which doesn't speak too highly of the veracity of the rumors.
"We will not continue to talk with chelsea unless the English club make a guarantee on Zhang's playing time. We learned the fact that Zhang could not play for Chelsea at the first place, because he could not get a working permit in England."
The new English work permit rules establish that non-European Union athletes coming from national teams outside of FIFA's World Ranking top 50 have a low chance of successfully applying for one. Unless, as we saw with Kenedy, the player's transfer fee and wages are high enough to pass certain requirements. We go into this in more detail here.
Currently, China's national team is in 79th place, below countries such as the Faeroe Islands and Panama. Zhang Linpeng would thus not qualify automatically for a work permit. Should he also not be approved through the appeals process outlined in the link above, he would have to move out on loan somewhere in Europe. This lack of clarity regarding Linpeng's destination is apparently also a worry for his current club. (As to why they would care so much? Who knows.)
"Chelsea haven't told us which club will be Zhang's first stop, and they could not guarantee Zhang could play for Chelsea in the future. So we believe it is a great risk to let him leave now, both for the player and the club."
-anonymous club official; source: Xinhuanet
Meanwhile, Zhang Linpeng wrote on his Weibo (i.e. Chinese Twitter) account that he "will take the risk" by himself, seemingly as an answer to Evergrande's resistance to the move abroad. The transfer still makes little sense in footballing terms though.
Unless Chelsea are paying a hefty transfer fee as well as premium wages for the 26-year-old Linpeng, he would have to spend at least two years in a country such as Spain or the Netherlands to earn an European Union passport, and a 28-year-old "project" makes even less sense given the club's transfer philosophy. But even then, paying a premium for a player coming from the Chinese Super League...
Silly season. It's not over until it's really over.