He has yet to cement his place in the first team at the Chinese Super League (CSL) outfit Shanghai SIPG, but whether he is being chosen to play or not seems to be pretty much immaterial to the future in the game for Chinese keeper Chen Wei.
Because a clutch of Europe’s top clubs, including Real Madrid, Barcelona, Paris Saint Germain, Bayern Munich, Benfica and Ajax, are said to be impressed by the 21-year-old custodian — who can’t find a way past Shanghai SIPG’s current No.1 Yan Junling. Indeed, he is yet to make an appearance for the first team. But that little fact is being largely ignored by the would-be suitors lining up to dangle lucrative contracts under his nose. And it isn’t hard to understand why.
Premier League big guns such as Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal are also said to be keeping tabs on the player, who was voted as the competition’s best keeper at the recent Toulon Tournament. Chen Wei graduated from Shanghai SIPG’s youth set-up and has made 11 appearances for his country’s U23 side. Now there is the very real possibility that he could earn a move to one of the European powerhouses monitoring his progress before he has even earned a full international cap!
One player definitely ready to roll when it comes to a first team appearance is ex-Portugal under-21 ace Pedro Delgado; reports suggest that the hard-working midfielder will make his Chinese Super League debut for Shandong Luneng any time soon.
What’s more interesting about Delgado, who is aged 22, is that it is said that he has become the latest player to naturalise as a citizen of China. And he also may well become the first player to represent the nation despite not having either parent hail from the country.
Delgado penned a deal for Shandong Luneng last year but hasn’t featured to date because of the foreign-player rule which limits clubs to the number of players who aren’t Chinese who can represent them.
Shandong manager Li Xiaopeng revealed that the delays in his naturalisation were because of the difficulties in giving up his Portuguese citizenship. Xiaopeng hinted that he may well take to the field ahead of Shandong’s 2-1 reverse to Tianjin Teda but he stayed in the stand with his team-mates to watch the game unfold. Needless to say, the defeat provided an unsatisfactory spectacle.
Beijing Guoan already had two naturalised players in the shapes of Li Ke and Hou Yongyong. And it is the former of those two who has made the history books. The London-born ex-England youth starlet became the first naturalised footballer in the CSL in March — and the first naturalised player to represent China.