Brazil-born Alan intends to repay Team China with goals if, as expected, he becomes the squad’s latest naturalized player.
The attacker, who reportedly gained Chinese citizenship last September, says he’s raring to pull on the national team’s red jersey and is hoping a crash course in Chinese will help him settle in quickly.
“I’m a man with a grateful heart. When I learned that I had the opportunity (to be naturalized), I had no hesitation. I hope I can repay Team China through great performances on the pitch,” Alan told Chinese publication Soccer News.
“I’ve been learning Chinese for several months. I have to say that Chinese is very difficult. I know how to speak Spanish, English and German. But Chinese is the most difficult one. I have to try hard and stick with my course.
“The most important thing is that I need to communicate with my Chinese friends. That’s how my Chinese can improve fast.”
Last year, China began adding naturalized players to its ranks in a bid to boost its chances of qualifying for a World Cup for the first time since 2002.
Head coach Li Tie had planned to make Alan the squad’s fourth naturalized player for a May training camp in Shanghai. However, the forward was unable to leave Brazil at the time due to pandemic-related travel restrictions.
England-born Li Ke (aka Nico Yennaris) and Brazil-born Ai Kesen (aka Elkeson) last year became Team China’s first two naturalized players; in May, Brazil-born Luo Guofu (aka Aloisio) earned his first call-up as part of the Shanghai training camp.
Last month, another Brazil-born player, Guanghzhou Evergrande’s Ricardo Goulart, told media that he’s ready to join Li Tie’s squad, insisting he has already been granted Chinese citizenship.
With the exception of Li Ke, who usually plays in defense, all these attacking options add up to a lot of extra firepower－meaning Alan faces a tough task to nail down a place in the starting XI. Not that coach Li is complaining, of course
“With the arrival of more naturalized stars, there will be fierce competition within the team. I hope there can be a positive atmosphere,” Li said in May.
Any initial injection of positivity, however, could quickly dissipate if China continues to struggle in qualifying for the 2022 World Cup finals in Qatar.
China currently sits eight points adrift of Group A leader Syria and only leads third-place Philippines on goal difference. The eight group winners and four best second-place finishers will enter a second phase of qualifying. China will restart its campaign at home to the Maldives on Oct 8.
Alan’s focus now shifts to Beijing Guo’an, with the Chinese Super League set to finally kick off behind closed doors on July 25.
Guo’an finished second last term behind Evergrande, where Alan began his CSL career in 2015. Having spent last season on loan at Tianjin Tianhai, the 31-year-old completed a loan move from Evergrande to Guo’an last Friday.
“I was impressed by Guo’an when I played against the team for the first time. The atmosphere of its home stadium reminded me a lot of Brazil’s stadiums,” said Alan.
“This year’s competition will be fierce, Many teams will have a chance. We first think of Guangzhou Evergrande and Shanghai SIPG, but Shandong Luneng and Shanghai Shenhua also have strong lineups.
“I think one player on his own cannot solve all a team’s problems, so we all need teammates to achieve goals. I’m a team player and I’ve always wanted to solve the problems with the team.”
As well as a number of homegrown internationals, including Yu Dabao and Zhang Xizhe, Alan also teams up with naturalized star Li Ke at Guo’an.
“Li Ke and I have a lot in common despite simply knowing each other,” said Alan. “We always play games together and communicate on and off the pitch and chat.
“We have many great Chinese players in our team. And I feel lucky to be able to play alongside them.”