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Khatib joins Chinese side in lucrative deal.

Summary: Lebanon talisman Fadi El-Khatib has joined CBA side Foshan Long Lions for the 2014-2015 season in a deal worth nearly $500,000.

BEIRUT: Lebanon talisman Fadi El-Khatib has joined CBA side Foshan Long Lions for the 2014-2015 season in a deal worth nearly $500,000. Khatib, 35, was released by Amchit at the end of last season after the team withdrew from the league due to financial constraints.

Khatib is not the first player from Lebanon to play in China, as former international Rony Fahed played for two years with Tianjin Ronggang, and Sabah Khoury played with Qingdao. The Chinese league has also seen appearances by several Middle Eastern players, including Jordanian stars Zaid Abbas and Sam Daghlas, as well as Iranian stars Hamed Haddadi and Samad Bahrami, Syrian ace Michel Maadenly and Palestinian center Sani Sakakini. All these players have taken advantage of a rule in the Chinese league that allows the last four ranked teams to deploy an Asian player as a local.

Despite receiving a lot of attention from international clubs from Europe, Asia and even the NBA during his career, Khatib has had an underwhelming career overseas. His first attempt to go abroad was when he was offered to the Los Angeles Clippers in 2003, but his attempted move was blocked by former club Sagesse. He then played in 2005 with Ittihad Aleppo of Syria, and in 2008 with Cherkasky in the UkrainianSuperleague. Khatib is among the top international players to have never played in the NBA.

There has been talk of Khatib's moving to China for the last few years, but he had not originally intended to leave Lebanon, as he was able to secure good contracts in the country. But given the financial difficulties surrounding most of the local clubs, Khatib reconsidered his options, and accepted the offer from Foshan Long Lions.

The Chinese league ends between February and March, and Khatib is believed to be keen on returning to the Lebanese League for the playoffs.

The 35-year-old was first said to be on the cusp of signing for childhood club Sagesse earlier this summer, but they failed to secure the necessary funds to sign Khatib for the whole season. Instead, it is rumored that "the Tiger" will join Sagesse after finishing his season in China.

However, Khatib told The Daily Star: "There is no offer yet from Sagesse nor any another teams, which keeps the door open for other possibilities."

The Chinese league always attracts top international talent, and the latest big name was Panda Friend (formerly known as Ron Artest and Metta World Peace), who joined Sichuan Blue Whales.

Khatib's teammate in Foshan will be American Acie Law, formerly of Olympiakos, Partizan Belgrade and several teams in the NBA.

Khatib visited China last week to undergo a medical prior to signing the contract. "The Tiger" will return to China to begin practice with his team in two weeks.

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Publication:The Daily Star (Beirut, Lebanon)
Geographic Code:7LEBA
Date:Sep 4, 2014
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