Espanyol’s Wu Lei in line for La Liga start against Valencia with millions expected to watch back home in China
Espanyol’s Wu Lei is in line to make his first start for the Spanish side against Valencia this weekend.
The Chinese forward could replace left winger Pablo Piatti in the starting line-up after the Argentine ruptured a cruciate ligament in the club’s last La Liga game against Rayo Vallecano last Saturday.
Wu came off the bench to replace Piatti after the 34th minute injury and won the penalty that levelled the scores in a game that Espanyol went on to win 2-1 thanks to a 95th minute winner from Sergi Darder.
That was Wu’s second appearance since signing from Chinese Super League champions Shanghai SIPG in the recent transfer window.
Wu has played 80 minutes combined in his first two appearances and is in line for a start for Rubi’s side.
He made a 12 minute cameo for his debut in a 2-2 draw with Villareal that was watched by a reported 40 millions fans back home in China despite taking place in the early hours Beijing time.
The game at Valencia’s Mestalla kicks off at 11.15pm China time so the likelihood is that there will be an even bigger audience for this game and more so were Wu to get the nod.
If Espanyol beat Valencia they will go level on points with Los Che and join them in the top half of the 20-team table.
Supporters of the Barcelona-based club seem to have taken to the 27-year-old with a video of fans chanting his name being shared on Chinese social media.
The club have also announced that the forward’s shirt has become the club’s biggest seller of the season despite only signing for the club two weeks ago.
Espanyol have been inundated with requests for the shirt from China according to reports in Spanish newspaper Diario AS while Taobao vendors have sold thousands on the mainland.
Kit supplier Kelme has been asked to manufacture more shirts to meet demand.
The club will release a special edition shirt with Wu’s name in Chinese characters ahead of the game against
Borja Iglesias and Marc Roca, the two other top selling shirts, will also have their names printed in Chinese on special edition shirts.
How Wu Lei dribbled and evaded two defenders, finally was fouled by the defender in the penalty box before having the 1-on-1 chance against the goalkeeper in his home debut for Espanyol last night. Through this penalty Espanyol equalized and finally won 2:1. pic.twitter.com/aIgsqiXVn9
— Titan Sports Plus (@titan_plus) 10 February 2019
The CSL golden boot last season, scoring 27 goals in 29 games as his side wrested the title from the stranglehold of Guanghzou Evergrande, signed for a fee of €2 million (US$2.26 million) to become only the second Chinese footballer to play in the Spanish top flight. Zhang Chengdong was the first when he joined Rayo Vallecano on loan from Beijing Guoan in 2015.
Zhang made one appearance for the club in La Liga coming off the bench for the final minutes of a 2-0 loss to Atletico Madrid.
If Wu starts then he will become the first Chinese player to start a La Liga game and the first to start in one of Europe’s big five leagues since Hao Junmin played for German Bundesliga side Schalke 04 against Kaiserslautern in April 2011.