Guizhou Renhe is reportedly on verge of signing star midfielder
Is Frank Lampard really coming this time?
The Chelsea midfielder will reportedly follow former teammates Nicolas Anelka and Didier Drogba to join the Chinese Super League next season.
Dai Yongge, chairman of Guizhou Renhe, told a CCTV reporter during the first game of the Chinese FA Cup final between Renhe and Guangzhou Evergrande on Saturday that the club has signed Lampard, and that the 34-year-old former England national captain will join the team in January.
Renhe was reportedly chasing Lampard in March. The club has also been linked with Brazilian midfielder Ronaldinho, Manchester United center-back Rio Ferdinand, Italian striker Alessandro Del Piero and Real Madrid coach Jose Mourinho.
Club manager Gong Lei said when he was invited to serve as a commentator for CCTV in March that foreign stars are worth the high cost and there was "a great chance" Ronaldinho would come.
The two-time FIFA World Player of the Year instead moved to Brazil's Atletico Mineiro over the summer.
Renhe deputy chairman Yang Xiaoyu confirmed to Sina.com that the club is in contact with Lampard and Chelsea, but said the deal hasn't been finalized. He also said the club's interest is sincere, and that if everything goes smoothly, Lampard will soon sign.
Renhe's Sun Jihai, who played in England for almost eight years, told the website Lampard's arrival would be immensely helpful as the club tries to build a championship contender.
"Lampard is a world-class star in both fame and ability, and he has played for the world's best clubs," Sun said.
"I don't know whether (Lampard's transfer) has been confirmed, but it would be great if it is true.
"I believe the club hopes to build Renhe into a champion, and is aiming at bigger glory, like higher-level tournaments outside the domestic league."
Renhe coach Gao Hongbo said after the 1-1 home draw against Evergrande that he is not going to plan for next year because his team still has a game to play this season.
Lampard's contract is due to expire in June, and Chelsea is believed to be unwilling to offer him another two-year contract.
The 34-year-old has contributed 189 goals in 572 appearances for the club, which he joined from West Ham in 2001. He has won three Premier League championships and one UEFA Champions League title with the club, and was runner-up for both FIFA World Player of the Year and the Ballon d'Or in 2005.
Renhe will play the second game of the FA Cup final with league champion Evergrande on Sunday in Guangzhou. The club has reportedly set aside 30 million yuan ($4.8 million) in bonus money for the team in the event if it wins. It would be the club's first championship trophy.
The Asian Football Confederation hasn't announced its allocation method for the 2013 Champions League — China got four in 2011 and 3.5 in 2012. Renhe, which placed fourth in the Chinese Super League this season, will secure a berth if it manages a win in the Cup. If not, it will likely face a playoff if China gets three-and-a-half spots again.