It's official: Wu moves to Espanyol

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail SHINE, January 29, 2019
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Shanghai SIPG striker Wu Lei's move to RCD Espanyol was confirmed by both clubs on Monday as the Spanish La Liga side looks forward to expand its influence in the Chinese market.

Espanyol announced that Wu will wear the club's No. 24 jersey on its official website at 5pm on Monday. SIPG put out a statement on its official WeChat account at almost the same time to confirm the transfer.

Spanish media reported that Wu had signed a two-year contract with a one-year extension clause. 

Wu scored 27 goals in last year's Chinese Super League, which won him the CSL Top Scorer and Player of the Year awards while his club clinched its maiden CSL title. He is also SIPG's all-time top scorer with 169 goals and has made the most appearances for the club.

The 27-year-old will have to treat his shoulder injury which he picked up during the Asian Cup tournament before being able to walk onto the pitch of Barcelona's RCDE Stadium.

The move for the international Wu, China's best player, has been mooted for several days.

Wu, who can play centrally or out wide, was previously linked with Chinese-owned Wolverhampton Wanderers in the English Premier League.

Wu explained his decision to choose Espanyol. "There were offers from other foreign clubs, too, but Espanyol showed great sincerity even after knowing about my injury. So I made the decision after considering a few factors, including whether I would be able to fit into the playing style of a team and the amount of playing time I would be given," the striker said.

Espanyol is languishing in 15th position in the 20-team La Liga, having lost to 10-man Real Madrid 2-4 on Sunday. The team is owned by Chinese company, The Rastar Managerial Group, with Chen Yansheng as club president.

Chen has said in previous interviews that owning a Chinese player would be the best way for the club to enter the Chinese market.

Chinese players started their "journey to the West" about two decades ago, with Fan Zhiyi and Sun Jihai joining English Premier League side Crystal Palace in 1998. They are followed by Yang Chen (Eintracht Frankfurt), Li Tie (Everton), Shao Jiayi (1860 Munich), Zheng Zhi (Celtic), Hao Junmin (Schalke 04), and others. Wu, however, isn't the first Chinese player in Spain's top league; Zhang Chengdong played briefly for Rayo Vallecano in the 2015-16 season.

The exodus has petered out over the past few years, partially because of promising income in domestic leagues, as well as Chinese players' limited personal abilities.

Wu was nurtured by Shanghai veteran coach Xu Genbao. His first appearance for third-tier side East Asia (SIPG's predecessor) dates back to 2006 when he was 14 years old — a record for being the youngest person to play in a professional match in China.

"As an excellent striker, Wu showed outstanding and steady form when playing in the CSL since 2013," SIPG said in the statement. "His dazzling performances have attracted interest from overseas in recent years. On Wu's issue, SIPG always follows the principle that the club would show full support as long as the decision benefits a player's personal career and the development of Chinese football."

"The club wishes Wu a smooth future and more progress in the new environment. We hope he can improve by playing in a strong country's high-level league. Meanwhile, the club will always keep the door open for Wu and expects him to come back stronger one day and make more contributions to Shanghai and Chinese football," it added.

SIPG chairman Chen Xuyuan said the CSL champion will now look for another striker from within the team and hoped SIPG would be Wu's first choice when he decides to come back.

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