Chinese hotshot stars on La Liga’s reboot as reports of Premier League transfer swirl

Wu Lei revealed why he has become a target for English Premier League high-fliers Wolves as he played a starring role in La Liga’s go back to action over the weekend.

The Chinese striker tested positive for the coronavirus in March, but any fears he might not return to action in peak condition where quickly dispelled as he found the net in Espanyol’s 2-0 win over Alaves on Saturday at RCDE Stadium, where the stands were empty due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Since arriving to Espanyol in January 2019, Wu has looked right in at home in La Liga. If reports are to be trusted, he could be set for probably another step up in class at Wolverhampton Wanderers.

Multiple outlets, including respected Spanish daily Marca, claim the English club has already reached out to Espanyol over a possible deal, although Tencent Sports reported Wu’s Barcelona-based employers have denied this.

A Marca report said Wu’s Espanyol contract expires in December, by which time the Chinese-owned team, which is currently three points from safety, could be playing in Spain’s second division.

Cashing in on Wu, who cost Espanyol just 2 million euros ($2.3 million) from Shanghai SIPG, could therefore be very tempting for the La Liga struggler.

As the only Chinese player plying his trade in a major European league, acquiring Wu would inevitably come with marketing benefits for Wolves, who have thrived under the ownership of Chinese conglomerate Fosun International to currently sit sixth in the EPL standings.

Wu, though, has proven that his value to a team extends way beyond the number of shirts he can shift, consistently putting in versatile and energetic performances in Spain-both in wide and central positions-that offer much more than goals.

His willingness to cover the hard yards was again in evidence against Alaves on Saturday when he harried goalkeeper Fernandes Pacheco into what would prove to be a pivotal 19th-minute mistake. Under pressure from Wu, Pacheco handled outside the box and was sent off.

Facing intense pressure from the host, substitute Alaves keeper Roberto Jimenez produced a string of fine saves to deny Wu the opener before Bernardo Espinosa put Espanyol in front in first-half injury time.

Two minutes after the restart, Wu, who earlier had a goal ruled out for handball, coolly slotted home after latching onto a through-ball to kill the game off.

“He was decisive,” Espanyol coach Abelardo Fernandez said of Wu, who now has eights goals across all competitions this season.

“He caused the sending-off and he scored the second goal. He did everything we asked him to do, he stretched their defense. He did his job perfectly.”

Wu’s strike capped a particularly impressive return for the 28-year-old, who was one of six Espanyol players and staff to be diagnosed with the coronavirus in March, when the Chinese Football Association said he had displayed “mild symptoms”.

Espanyol had looked doomed to relegation as it restarted the campaign six points from safety, but Wu’s fine performance has given it renewed hope of survival.

Espanyol, which was last relegated 26 years ago and has been in Spain’s top flight for 85 out of 89 seasons, faces a tough run-in with games against Real Madrid and Barcelona to come.