The "Chinese Maradona" of Shanghai SIPG is rumored to be of interest to the Danish side and Goal takes a look at the attacking midfielder to see if his talents warrant it
The top scoring Chinese player of the 2013 Chinese Super League (CSL) season and behind only Elkeson of AFC Champions League winners Guangzhou Evergrande and Carmelo Valencia of Tianjin Teda, Wu Lei didn’t have a bad first season in the CSL, to say the least.
Wu had been catching the eye of many before his arrival in the CSL with Shanghao SIPG, having racked up 125 games and scored nearly 50 goals. Following a pre-season friendly against Molde, the Norwegian side's manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer singled him out for praise and suggested he move to the club.
The most glowing reference is from the man who signed him as a 13-year-old, Xu Genbao, who simply stated that Wu would be "China's Maradona."
Wu, who has just turned 22, also has done little to stop rumors that he may move, telling Fifa's website: “Of course I will say yes, if a good European side comes with an offer.”
With all of this in mind, is moving to the Danish Superliga right for both sides?
Goalscoring. Solskjaer’s first comment was to describe Wu as a "good striker," when in actual fact he is an attacking midfielder. You wouldn’t know it though, with hat-tricks against Qingdao Jonoon, Tianjin Teda and Shanghai Shenxin proving that the youngster is an ever-present threat.
There is far more to Wu Lei than his goals though. His vision and movement have been highly important in crafting Shanghai SIPG attacks, while his pace and skill have terrorised CSL defenses for the whole season.
Wu is also confident from the penalty spot and despite his height, has found the back of the net with his head on several occasions.
Upon viewing some of Wu's performances, he sometimes comes off selfish in his play. He possesses excellent skill and his tendency to not pass the ball has got him goals but is also often his undoing, as with many creative players.
His main weakness, though, may be a more general one - it’s tough for Chinese talent to adapt and make a breakthrough abroad. Dong Fangzhou had no impact at Manchester United but a good loan spell with Royal Antwerp in Belgium, while currently Chen Zhizhao at Corinthians has struggled to make an impact during his loan spell from Shanghai Shenxin.
Additionally, Hao Junmin had just a short spell at Schalke 04 while Feng Xiaoting and Huang Bowen only recorded 30 games each in South Korea. We can hope though that Wu follows the examples of Li Tie, Sun Jihai and Fan Zihi instead.
As the 2013 season draws to a close, a few select talents have been noticed for their superb performances. Beijing Guoan’s Zhang Xizhe is linked to Celtic and Evergrande’s Zhang Linpeng rumored to be off to Europe too; with Wu Lei linked to F.C. Copenhagen, it leaves us with two questions.
Should they move to Europe? It benefits each player and their national side for them to play abroad and they are at the right age, so on paper these potential transfers look good.
Are they linked to the right clubs? In Wu’s case, I think yes. Wu undeniably has great talent and has worked his way up the leagues and through the ranks in China to get to the top and proved himself a top performer at CSL level.
A move to La Liga, the English Premier League or Bundesliga would be too big a step from the CSL but the Danish Superliga offers a good level in between competitive domestic and European football, with Copenhagen likely to be happy with the results too.
Beijing-based Peter Davis has followed Chinese football since 2008 and is a regular contributor to the popular Chinese football blog Wild East Football. Follow him on Twitter at @peteydavis.