Shangai SIPG coy on star scorer Wu Lei's links to La Liga side Espanyol

Shanghai SIPG have refused to comment on reports in Spain that star player Wu Lei is set to sign for Espanyol.

Wu is the biggest name in Chinese football after finishing the 2018 Chinese Super League season as top scorer to help Shanghai win a first ever championship. He also shone in the 2019 Asian Cup earlier in January, helping the national team to the quarterfinal stage.

After being linked recently with Wolverhampton Wanderers in the English Premier League, Shanghai may have to face up to losing the talented forward to La Liga.

"We can't comment on media speculation," a spokesperson for the club told ESPN FC."Wu Lei is an important player for Shanghai SIPG."

On Monday, Chinese media reported that Wu had not returned home with the rest of the national team from the United Arab Emirates, host nation of the Asian Cup, and will instead fly to Barcelona to complete negotiations. Espanyol's Chinese president Chen Yansheng is in the market for talent from his homeland. Currently, Wu Lei is the biggest talent there is.

Chen said last week that the best way to increase the popularity of the club in China is to sign Chinese players.

"For starters, I think that hiring Chinese soccer talent is the best way to enter this market," Chen said. "Espanyol have some fans in China but there is room for a lot of growth."

The prospect of Wu heading to Spain has been welcomed by former Shanghai team-mate Iban Cuadrado, now a coach at Barcelona.

"Congratulation for Wu Lei that we played together in Shanghai four years ago," the former defender wrote on social media. "Very good player. Good challenge in La Liga in Spain. Good luck my friend."