Nico Yennaris might have been preparing for another Championship match this week. Instead, less than a year after leaving Brentford, he is getting used to his new status as an international trailblazer and the poster boy for football in China.

Things have gone dizzyingly fast for the former Arsenal trainee since he left west London for Beijing Sinobo Guoan in January for about £5 million. The 26-year-old made history as the first naturalised player to appear for China when he made his debut against the Philippines in June and his team could be crowned the Chinese Super League champions.

The former Arsenal midfielder became the first naturalised player to score in the Chinese Super League when he scored the winner against Henan Jianye l

Yennaris left Brentford in January to move to Beijing and was able to get a passport through his Chinese mother, Ying, and is now known as Li Ke There was a lot of coverage, my face was on the news quite a bit and everyone is very friendly, asking for pictures and autographs. Because I’m local to the stadium, there’s a lot of fans here.

 “It’s been a great experience. It’s been amazing to embrace the culture, start to learn the language and I think it’ll be amazing for my future.
 The club and fans have been great, my team has got a huge fanbase, the biggest in the Chinese Super League and they go home and away in big numbers.
“They have been excited to see me, very welcoming. When you come from Europe, had a good football education, played some good clubs, they get excited and hopefully I can repay them with performances.
 “There are big stadiums, big crowds and we compete on a good level with the Premier League and Championship.
 ”I’m fortunate to be in the capital city, it’s a really cool city, it’s developing all the time and I’m really enjoying it. I’ve found a three bed apartment, it’s close to the stadium, we train by the stadium, takes five minutes to get in.”
 Li Ke could have qualified to play for Cyprus through his dad, Harry. He played for England through the youth levels and yet, like Declan Rice, the chance to change nations and play at a World Cup really appealed.
 That was part of the reason behind the move to China as Beijing Sinobo Guoan FC could sign him without using up another foreign player slot.
 “I thought it would be a real honour to play for the national team,” said Li Ke. “It’s a massive country, If I could be part of a national team to reach a World Cup, be part of a squad that plays in a major tournament it would be amazing.

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