Wu Lei breaking more records in China
On hearing the Chinese Super League, most football fans would think foreign imports. Players who travelled from either Europe or South America to earn big money. However, one thing the CSL continues to produce is homegrown talent. A prime example is China's very own Wu Lei.
At only 26, Lei is delivering his best season to date. The Shanghai SIPG winger is banging in goals for fun. So far he's netted 23 times. His assist tally reads eight, too.
Lei's previous best was scoring 20 goals last campaign. His progress is becoming rather scary. The China international has struck at least 14 times in each of the past four seasons.
Ever-present at SIPG, Lei is now a club icon. His journey began in Chinese football's third division, China League Two. After helping the Red Eagles achieve promotion to the second tier in 2006, he scored four goals in 24 games the following campaign. From then onwards, opponents started to become fearful of him.
Lei's recent goal-scoring heroics mean he is the CSL's all-time top scorer. His 98 goals surpassed Han Peng's 91. He's now got sights on chasing down another record.
Before forming the CSL in 2004, China's top division was named the Chinese Jia-A League. This is why one player, Li Jinyu, still leads the all-time scoring chart. The former Shandong Luneng striker netted 120 times in 251 games. Lei is only 22 goals adrift, on roughly 90 fewer appearances. Should he continue to bully his way to goal, he will break that record by next season.
With Wu Lei at the forefront, Shanghai SIPG currently top the CSL. After 26 games, the Red Eagles sit two points clear of Guangzhou Evergrande. Founded 13 years ago, finishing as runners-up last season was their best ever performance. They could better that in the coming weeks. The title is within touching distance.
With only four matches remaining, SIPG will face third-placed Shandong Luneng on Sunday. A tough fixture, but the most important follows six days later. Their clash with Guangzhou Evergrande is a potential title-decider. Then come games against Beijing Renhe and Tianjin Quanjian. Although the pressure could be on, both should prove quite straightforward.
Lei hasn't been doing all of SIPG's work alone. Three Brazilians are also getting in on the act. Hulk and Oscar have totalled 22 goals, with Elkeson netting 13 times. The latter, a 29-year-old midfielder, is making big waves in China. In fact, he is the CSL's second-top scorer. No wonder, then, the Xuhui-based team hold pole position.
Head coach Vitor Pereira, whose Shanghai mission only began in December, will be more than pleased with his side's progression. The former Portuguese midfielder is now determined to clean up the final four fixtures, sealing the club's first ever CSL title.
With Wu Lei performing at peak, it's looking like SIPG's year.