Espanyol's new Chinese forward Wu Lei holds his new jersey during his official presentation by RCD Espanyol in Barcelona, Catalonia, on Jan 29, 2019. (Photo/Xinhua)
Star striker hopes La Liga move triggers fresh flow of Chinese talent abroad
Wu Lei hopes his dream move to La Liga can kickstart a new influx of Chinese players to Europe's top divisions.
The 27-year-old on Monday joined Barcelona-based Espanyol from Shanghai SIPG to become the first Chinese to sign a permanent deal with a Spanish top-flight side and just the second player from China to currently ply his trade in Europe's elite ranks.
Despite Wu's best efforts, China's recent Asian Cup campaign ended in a humbling 3-0 quarterfinal loss to Iran last week.
In contrast, finalists Japan cruised past Iran in their semifinal with a squad boasting plenty of players with European experience, including Hannover's Genki Haraguchi, Werder Bremen's Yuya Osako, Southampton's Maya Yoshida and Getafe's Gaku Shibasaki.
Wu, who scored 27 goals to help SIPG win the Chinese Super League title last season, is encouraging more Chinese players to venture abroad.
"As we can see at the Asian Cup, so many Japanese and South Korean players play in foreign leagues and I think I need to be a role model for younger Chinese players," Wu told China Central Television before leaving Dubai for Barcelona on Monday.