China star Wu Lei ‘turns down Premier League’ to stay at Espanyol

Shanghai (AFP) – Wu Lei contemplated “giving up and returning to China” after testing positive for coronavirus in March and says he turned down offers from Germany and England to remain at Espanyol.

The 28-year-old forward is China’s best-known player and there is intense interest back home in what he plans to do following Espanyol’s relegation from La Liga.

Wu told Xinhua news agency by telephone from Spain that he intends to stay to help spearhead Chinese-owned Espanyol’s bid to bounce back into Spain’s top flight next season.

“It’s true that some clubs from Premier League, Bundesliga and La Liga contacted me,” the Chinese international told state-run Xinhua in an interview released Friday.

“But I know what I truly want. The decision (to stay with Espanyol) was made for multiple reasons both on and off the pitch.

“My family feels comfortable living in the city of Barcelona. My teammates, club staff and fans have always been nice to me.”

Wu, who moved to Spain from Shanghai SIPG in January 2019, has scored 11 goals in 65 appearances for Catalonia-based Espanyol — including in his first game back when football resumed in June from the virus.

Although he was never seriously unwell — the Chinese Football Association said he had only mild symptoms — Wu said that falling ill with coronavirus was a psychological blow.

“Honestly, when I was tested positive for COVID-19 in March, I was in a bad mood and even thought about giving up and returning to China,” said Wu.

“That period was the most difficult time of this year. My wife, who also tested positive for the virus, suffered a lot.

“Luckily, we went through it in the end, which made me cherish more my family and my health.”

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