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Former Everton midfielder ‘sentenced to life in prison’ for corruption and match-fixing

Former Everton midfielder Li Tie has been sentenced to life in prison in China for a string of corruption offences, according to local reports.

The 46-year-old joined Everton on loan in 2002 and played 29 games as the Toffees secured a seventh-place Premier League finish under David Moyes. He then joined permanently, signing a three-year contract, but featured in just seven more games across all competitions after suffering a broken leg in February 2004.

Complications during his recovery effectively ended his career in England – he played just once for Sheffield United in a two-year tenure between 2006 and 2008 – and he returned to China to finish his career with Liaoning Whowin.

Li went on to become an assistant coach at Guangzhou Evergrande and Hebei China Fortune, as well as supporting the Chinese national team, and eventually became Hebei’s head coach in 2015. Four years later, he assumed control of the national side.

But a year after leaving his post, Li was accused of ‘accepting and offering bribes’ amid a widespread investigation into corruption in Chinese football.

Li Tie during his spell at Everton / Gary M. Prior/GettyImages

Li subsequently confessed to paying £330,000 in bribes to become China’s head coach, and locally based journalist Mark Dreyer reports that he’s subsequently been sentenced to life in prison for his crimes. CFA president Chen Xuyuan has received a 15-year sentence and Du Zhaocai, another high-ranking official, will be behind bars for 13 years.

In a statement read out on state broadcaster CCTV, Li said: “I’m very sorry. I should have kept my head to the ground and followed the right path. There were certain things that at the time were common practices in football.

“By gaining ‘success’ through such improper means, it actually made me more and more impatient and eager for quick results.

“To achieve good performance, I resorted to influencing referees, bribing opposing players and coaches, sometimes through clubs dealing with other clubs. This behaviour becomes a habit, and eventually, there is even a slight dependence on these practices.”

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