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Wu: Time is right to return

By SHI FUTIAN | China Daily | Updated: 2022-08-01 09:58
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Wu Lei is reportedly set to return to Shanghai Port. [Photo/GETTY IMAGES]

Tough journey

Back in 2019, Wu was undoubtedly the brightest star of Chinese soccer, arriving at Espanyol after helping Shanghai Port win its maiden CSL title. He excelled in his first season at the Barcelona-based club, becoming the first Chinese player to score in La Liga and helping the team rise from relegation trouble to Europa League qualification.

"The coach, teammates and local fans didn't lower their standards for me just because I'm a Chinese player. And the fans didn't give me extra applause simply because I'm from China. All the players are held to the same standard," said Wu.

"Many domestic fans always consider many questions on the basis that I'm from China, but my coach and teammates never thought that way. The local fans would respect me if I played good, and boo me if I played bad. And that would be a blow to my confidence.

"From my first training session, I told myself that I could not let anyone look down on me. And from the training and what I achieved here, I think I earned the local fans' recognition. They pretty much like me."

However, Wu's career in La Liga has been full of twists and turns following the smooth sailing of his impressive debut campaign.

The forward was frozen out of the starting XI in a particularly turbulent period for Espanyol, during which it was relegated and then promoted back to the top flight.

Despite spending most of his time on the bench, Wu insists he never stopped learning and developing as a player in Spain, and he hopes his experience and knowledge can benefit Chinese soccer.

"I have experienced so much in my career so far. I have seen so much and I have learned so much. Now when I return, I will again fight with my teammates to see if we can still win a CSL title," said Wu.

But Wu is under no illusions that his experience alone can remedy the troubles of the domestic game and the national team, with success-starved fans now desperate to see new talents follow in his footsteps to challenge themselves abroad.

"Some people say I'm not good enough because they think I haven't done enough to help Chinese soccer," he said."But what I want to say is that I'm not that young and I played in a foreign league alone. But soccer is a team sport, and one man cannot make that much difference."

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