Wu Lei's La Liga debut draws Chinese audience of 40 million

Wu Lei
Wu Lei came on as a 78th-minute substitute for Espanyol against Villarreal

Wu Lei's move from Shanghai SIPG to Espanyol may be a January signing that slipped under the radar - but that doesn't mean it has gone unnoticed by everyone.

Wu made his debut as a substitute in Sunday's 2-2 La Liga draw at Villarreal.

Espanyol reported viewing figures in China of 40 million for Wu's 12-minute appearance.

For the same match, the TV audience in Spain was 177,000.

According to Spanish newspaper Marca, the club's total audience for all 17 league matches combined this season is just over seven million.

Espanyol are owned by Chinese billionaire Chen Yansheng and since the arrival of Wu - dubbed the "Chinese Maradona" by one of his former coaches - the Catalan club have seen a massive spike in interest.

Their social media following on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram has increased by more than 20,500 outside China, with the figure exceeding half a million in China.

In addition, more than 2,000 replica shirts with Wu's name and squad number were reportedly sold within 48 hours of the move going through.

La Liga has identified the Chinese market as a key area for growth, and if Wu - who scored 27 goals in 29 games in the Chinese Super League - can make that sort of impact in Spain, La Liga and Espanyol will consider the 2m euro transfer fee very well spent.

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