By Sportswriter Yao Youming and Zhao Yingbo
XI'AN, July 9 (Xinhua) -- Chinese international Wu Lei's Espanyol lost to F.C Barcelona 1-0 on Wednesday night, condemning them to relegation to Spain's second division next season, and prompting fans across China to engage in heated debated about what Wu's next move should be.
A multiple winner of the Chinese Super League's Golden Boot award during a 12-year spell with Shanghai SIPG, Wu has scored eight goals for Espanyol so far in the 2019-20 season, leading some to suggest the Nanjing-born forward should consider moving on to pastures new.
"Wu Lei scored goals in all the competitions his team participated in this season, including La Liga, the Europa League and the Copa del Rey. Their relegation didn't lie with him. What's more, it's hard for a 28-year-old to improve when playing in the second division, so he should leave in the summer transfer window," said a fan named "Liverpool legend Virgil" on China's All Football app.
In a survey featuring 25,000 fans discussing Wu's future, 67.5 percent wanted Wu to leave Espanyol. Only 14.3 percent hoped the Chinese forward would stay at the Barcelona-based club, although Wu said in a recent interview that he had no plans to depart Espanyol and would stay with the club as long as it needs him.
"Wu Lei's choice to stay on is the most appropriate option. If he quits the style of the Spanish league and environment to which he has adapted, and moves to another league, he would have to once again adapt to a new environment and a new club. That route is a bit adventurous," said a netizen named "Hubert-zhu" in China's Hupu forum.
Wu had been linked to a move to English Premier League side Wolverhampton Wanderers, who are owned by Chinese investment firm Fosun. Although Wu dismissed those rumors, some Chinese football fans are expecting to see him in the Premier League soon.
"Wu Lei is waving the flag for Chinese football, just like Son Heung-min has done for South Korea, so he should have a go in the EPL. His outstanding speed and the skill at breaking the offside trap may help him establish in the league," said a Chinese internet user named "Nanshan Kid" on the TikTok platform.
However, China's well-known football commentator Huang Jianxiang isn't so sure how well Wu would adapt to English football. "The Premier League is not suitable for Wu Lei. In my opinion, the league needs footballers who are physically strong, and few Asians are able to adapt to these tough games," Huang said.
In addition to England's top division, some fans asked Wu to consider playing in other major leagues in Europe, such as Germany's Bundesliga and the Italian Serie A.
"I think Serie A suits Wu Lei well. Italian teams attach more importance to tactics and the counterattack would be more suitable for him," said Hupu forum user "komalai".
"Chinese players Yang Chen and Shao Jiayi spent good times in the Bundesliga, and the league may be more friendly to the Asian players, I'd like Wu Lei to continue his career abroad in Germany," said "Chen Xiaoyang" on Sina Weibo.
Additionally, with the postponed 2020 Chinese Super League season not set to start until July 25, some fans advised Wu to come home and chase the CSL trophy once again, which would also allow him to prepare better for China's crucial upcoming 2022 FIFA World Cup Asian qualifiers.