Former Everton player Li Tie has reportedly been sentenced to life in prison in his native China for corruption.
Li made 33 appearances for Everton while on loan from Chinese club Liaoning during the 2002–03 season and made seven appearances the following season after signing permanently.
The defensive midfielder played briefly for Sheffield United but suffered injury problems after breaking his leg in an international match in February 2004.
Li, 46, finished his career in China and served as coach of its national team between 2019 and 2021.
A year after Li left that role, China’s prosecutor issued a bombshell statement saying he was “suspected of accepting and offering bribes” amid a massive crackdown on corruption in football.
Former Everton player Li Tie (left) has reportedly been sentenced to life in prison after admitting to paying bribes and match-fixing.
Li celebrates an Everton goal with Wayne Rooney during a Premiership match in 2002.
China-based journalist and author Mark Dreyer said Li had been sentenced to life in prison.
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Li admitted paying 3 million yuan (£330,000) in bribes to become national team coach in a televised confession on state broadcaster CCTV.
He also confessed to having participated in a match-fixing scandal to gain promotions with his club teams.
Li said: ‘I’m very sorry. He should have kept his head on the ground and followed the right path. “There were certain things that were common practices in football at that time.”
Reporter and author based in China Mark Dreyer said Li has been sentenced to life in prison for his role in the scandal.
Former Chinese Football Association head Chen Xuyuan has been sentenced to 15 years in prison for bribery, Dreyer said.
Li admitted to successfully fixing matches when he was coach of Hebei China Fortune and Wuhan Zall. The latter achieved promotion from China League One as champions in 2018.
He added in his televised statement: “By achieving ‘success’ through such inappropriate means, it actually made me increasingly impatient and eager for quick results.”
‘To achieve good performance, I resorted to influencing referees, bribing opposing players and coaches, sometimes through clubs negotiating with other clubs.
Li Tie enjoyed a successful first season at Everton in 2002-03 before breaking his leg.
“This behavior becomes a habit and eventually there is even a slight dependence on these practices.”
Li was considered one of the most talented Chinese players of his generation when he signed for Everton in August 2002.
The loan deal for him and compatriot Li Weifeng was brokered by the now-defunct Chinese telecommunications company Keijan, which was sponsoring Everton at the time.
Li later became coach of the Chinese national team, but admitted paying £330,000 in bribes to secure the job.
Li was a surprise hit at Goodison Park and manager David Moyes played him regularly in the Premier League as Everton claimed seventh place.
That persuaded Everton to sign him permanently for £1.2m in August 2003, with two-thirds of the deal paid for through sponsorships.
Having been sent off against Arsenal on the opening day of the season, Li broke his leg while playing for China in February 2004 and never managed to return to the first team.
He was released by Everton in 2006 and joined Sheffield United, but played just once for the Blades due to persistent injury problems.
Li, who played 92 times for China between 1995 and 2007, moved to Chengdu Blades, who were affiliated with Sheffield United, in 2008 and then returned to local club Liaoning.
After coaching at club level, he acted as interim coach of the Chinese national team after Marcello Lippi resigned in 2019 and was later appointed permanently.
In November 2022, it was initially announced that Li had been investigated for “serious violation of laws” by the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) and the anti-corruption agency, the National Supervision Commission.