• Guangzhou Evergrande says it wants to develop new talents a la Lionel Messi.

Guangzhou Evergrande says it wants to develop new talents a la Lionel Messi. (Photo : Getty Images)

Chinese football club Guangzhou Evergrande says that it was to discover new Lionel Messis in its young prospects.

China's Messi

Evergrande owner and property tycoon Xu Jiayin made the bold claim during an interview with reporters in Beijing on Thursday. Xu admitted that they have yet to see someone among their 2,800 students that has the4 potential to become a Messi or a Cristiano Ronaldo. But he remains confident that his young proteges will still shew promise, The Malay Mail reported.

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The team runs a large soccer academy in the southern province of Guangdong where it has been training prospective talents. Those who show great promise are then sent to Spain when their reach 13 years old to further hone their skills.

The property tycoon's new focus on developing native talent reflects his desire to create a strong all-Chinese team. In February, Xu said that his team will be gradually phasing out foreign players to have an all-Chinese roster by 2020.

Evergrande was one of the first teams to bring in big-name international players with their acquisition of the likes of Paulinho and Jackson Martinez. Xu stressed that the acquisition of foreign players should be done in the service of being able to nurture the next generation of players for the national team.

The best fighting spirit

Meanwhile, Evergrande coach Luis Felipe Scolari expressed praise for his players for their performance in the current season. Scolari singled out midfielder Zheng Zhi, whom he said is one of the best that he has seen in his entire coaching career, ESPN FC reported.

The six-time Chinese Super League champions have just opened their new title defense with an impressive 2-1 victory over Beijing Guoan. Paulinho gave the team the early lead, but Beijing's Burak Yilmaz managed to tie the score later. Paulinho once again scored the deciding goal in the 87th minute of the match.

The win is Evergrande's fourth this season after taking their first two wins in the Asian Champions League and lording it over Jiangsu Suning in the Chinese Super Cup.