Lampard 'in talks with Chinese team'
BEIJING (AFP) –
Chelsea star Frank Lampard could be a step closer to following former teammates Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka with a move to China, after Guizhou Renhe confirmed Monday they were in talks with him.
The England international midfielder has been linked since March with a move to the Chinese Super League.
But speculation intensified after Renhe chairman Dai Yongge was quoted in the domestic press on Saturday as saying that Lampard had signed.
Chelsea manager Roberto Di Matteo played down the reports after his side’s 1-1 draw with Liverpool on Sunday. But a Renhe official confirmed in a brief statement to AFP that talks with Lampard were underway.
“Yes, we are in contact with Lampard but so far nothing has been settled,” said deputy board chairman Yang Xiaoyu.
Dai was quoted by the state-run China Daily as saying Lampard would join Renhe as captain in January.
A winter arrival would give the 34-year-old time to settle in before the 2013-14 Chinese Super League season begins in March.
High-flying Renhe qualified for their first AFC Champions League competition with a fourth-place finish in the league, which ended last week.
The club is based in Guiyang in the southwestern province of Guizhou. It is bankrolled by Dai, who is boss of underground shopping centre developer Renhe Commercial Holdings Company.
The team, which is managed by former China national team coach Gao Hongbo, includes former Manchester City defender Sun Jihai.
“Lampard is a world-class star in both fame and ability, and he has played for the world’s best clubs,” Sun told the China Daily.
“I don’t know whether (the transfer) has been confirmed, but it would be great if it is true.”
China has become an attractive destination for football stars approaching the end of their careers.
Ivory Coast striker Drogba and former France international Anelka play for Shanghai Shenhua on contracts said to be worth $300,000 a week.
Lampard, who is currently injured with a calf problem, would be in line for an even bigger payday, reports in the British press have claimed.
His contract with Chelsea is due to expire in June and he is unlikely to receive a new deal with the European champions.
Meanwhile, a report in China’s Soccer News newspaper on Monday quoted sources at Shenhua as saying Anelka could be on his way back to England.
The report, which could not be verified by AFP, comes as the British media suggested that Anelka is heading to English Premier League side West Ham United.