Despite the fact that Espanyol is very likely to be relegated at the end of the season, Chinese striker Wu Lei insisted that he intends to stay with the team regardless of the outcome.
In an interview with Chinese state media People’s Daily, Wu emphasized that he will continue to be with his team if needed, “If Espanyol needs me, and I’m capable of making contributions to the team, I will choose to stay.”
The 28-year-old football player from China experienced a range of challenges in 2020. Wu tested positive for COVID-19 earlier in March, and announced his full recovery in May. The Chinese striker scored one goal for Espanyol following his recovery, and now has a total of eight goals in the current season, including four goals in the 2019-2020 La Liga tournament.
“Seeing my physical condition, I feel I am fully recovered (from COVID-19). In fact, there was only one week that I had symptoms, so it should not be causing any problems,” Wu talked about his recovery from COVID-19 and his performance on the field. “With regards to getting ready for the games, frankly, the most challenging part is the game schedule. Frequent and consecutive games will lead to fatigue, and that is the same for everyone. Especially for us (Espanyol), we need to fight for every game in this important period to remain in La Liga, there is pressure both mentally and physically.”
Wu has shown full confidence in his individual performances since the restart of the La Liga tournament, yet his team is facing serious challenges in surviving in the top-division Spanish football league. Following a 1-2 loss against Real Betis, Espanyol now ranks at the bottom of the league and is 10 points away from the safety zone.
Wu acknowledged that the situation is tough for Espanyol.
“We were one man short in our second game, and we fought hard,” Wu said. “I wanted to say that everyone on the team is trying their best to remain in La Liga, and the club invested so much this year to recruit players. But this is part of football, it means that we did not do well in some areas. This is the harsh part of competitive sports, we have to pay the price.”
The Chinese striker was not able to save his team from suffering four consecutive losses. For the 28-year-old, his performances in these games were rather mediocre, including missing an easy goal in the final minutes in the game against Real Betis.
Joining Espanyol in January 2019, Wu signed a three-year contract with the team with the option for extending for an additional year. Yet, with Espanyol’s future in La Liga falling short, more speculations and talks started to appear. Wu was previously rumored to have the opportunity to join the Wolverhampton Wanderers F.C. in the English Premier League. He never directly answered any questions with regards to the potential move, but was clear on expressing his intention to stay with Espanyol and committing 100% in the remaining games.
According to reports from Chinese state media China Daily, former Chinese international Manchester United player Dong Fangzhuo commented on Wu’s future in the English Premier League. On his personal social media, Dong claimed that Wu is better off going to England to continue his football career in Europe.
“I think no matter if Espanyol is relegated or not, a better choice for him is to go to the Premier League,” Dong said in a video on social media.”I think Espanyol is not a good fit for Wu now. Considering the team’s deficiencies in midfield, the lack of supply to Wu up front and the squad’s overall instability, I don’t think Wu should stay at the club.”
In earlier comments on Wu’s goal against Alaves, Dong also suggested that Wu is qualified to move to the English Premier League. “He is now much more mature in terms of body strength and mentality.”
Dong signed with Manchester United in January 2004 and spent four years in Europe before returning to China. Dong only made one Premier League appearance for Manchester United in 2007.
According to English Media Dailymail, another English Premier League team, Watford F.C., was given the chance to sign Espanyol forward Wu. Dailymail also commended Wu for his explosive speed and believed that the Chinese striker would be a fit in the English Premier League. Wu was also rumored to join the Turkish football club Beşiktaş J.K a few weeks earlier.
Facing pressure from relegation, Espanyol is also suffering from financial difficulties caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. If the team ends up in the second-tier league at the end of the season, Espanyol may be forced to consider selling part of its current team.
With five games left in the 2019-2020 La Liga tournament, Espanyol will be playing against Leganes on Sunday, followed by a game against F.C Barcelona on Wednesday, July 8. Espanyol and Wu need to drastically improve their performances to avoid an early relegation.