Chinese striker Wu Lei shines in Spanish league
Published: Feb 14, 2019 07:58 PM

Espanyol's new Chinese striker Wu Lei showcases his football skill during his official presentation at the RCDE Stadium in Cornella de Llobregat, Spain on January 29. Photo: VCG

With two matches played, Chinese striker Wu Lei has become a protagonist in RCD Espanyol's La Liga campaign, highlighted by his performance last week which helped the blue and white to a comeback 2-1 win against Rayo Vallecano.

Wu replaced injured Pablo Piatti in the first half, provoked a penalty award that helped the team equalize He revitalized the ­attack for an unexpected victory.

After years of underachievement by the Chinese national soccer team, many Chinese fans believed a Chinese player simply could not perform at a top-tier European league team. Wu's presence at Espanyol has been a pleasant surprise for all. 

Espanyol head coach Rubi said the mobility of Wu, last season's Chinese Super League (CSL) Golden Boot winner, earned him his place. 

It took Wu two games to win the affection of supporters, as a ­video showing fans chanting "Wu Lei!" after the Rayo game widely circulated on Chinese social media. 

Sometimes dubbed "China's Lionel Messi," Wu, now 27, was top ­Chinese scorer in the CSL for six consecutive seasons, with 102 goals and 57 assists in 172 games. 

It is with the help of Wu that Shanghai SIPG ended Guangzhou Evergrande's seven-year reign of the Chinese top-tier flight.

Wu's arrival  will likely improve Espanyol and his global celebrity may rise as Chinese fans find a reason to support a club considered a minnow in a league largely dominated by Barcelona and Real Madrid.

There was speculation that Wu's move to the Barcelona-based club was a commercial rather than a sporting decision, as the club is owned by Chinese businessman Chen Yansheng. 

Wu has ­silenced the accusers, but the commercial reasons also make sense. Wu's club shirt has become the top-seller in two weeks since his ­arrival. More than 50,000 have shifted with his name on the back. 

For the footballer, it is all about sporting reasons. 

Piatti's injury will undoubtedly give Wu more options to accumulate more minutes in La Liga and if his performance remains at the same ­level he showed in the Rayo game, Wu will likely be a starter in Rubi's team.

At the weekend, Espanyol will travel to Valencia, who are in the top half of the 20-team La Liga, with fans back home hoping Wu can make all the difference.