By Chris Harris
Arsène Wenger believes China can become a footballing force in the future - if they want it enough.
The Arsenal manager will be back in Asia this month when the first-team squad embark on a tour that takes in matches in Malaysia, China and Hong Kong.
Wenger sees similarities between the current state of Chinese football and the early days of the J-League in Japan, and he thinks Arsenal's summer hosts can go from strength to strength.
"The China league is a bit like the Japan league, where I was in 1994," said Wenger. "That was the third year of professional football in Japan and it is similar in China, but it is not enough.
"To make a sport popular you need the elite and you need a strong basis of the number of people who practice the game. The elite can give the appetite to the others to play, but after you need to support that and have the coaches to create the practice in the younger generations.
"Usually, sport follows the economic power, and the economic power is moving at the moment from Europe to China and Brazil. These countries, if they have the desire, they will have the players. The history is in Europe - but how long can we resist the power of China if they really want to develop football? The future will tell."
Wenger believes the level of motivation will ultimately determine China's success on the pitch - as it does at Arsenal.
"We have an organisation that starts at a very young age, with the same ingredients in our coaching lessons," he said. "They are all based on intelligence of movement and, of course, passion and motivation.
"To make a career at the top level you need a fantastic motivation. Maybe only two per cent of the population has the required motivation to make a massive career. You can love football without being ready to give everything for it.
"But if you want to be a great football player it has to mean everything for you. This kind of motivation comes naturally if you have a good basis of education in football."
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