Chelsea soccer star Frank Lampard is poised to follow former teammates Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka with a lucrative move to China, after Guizhou Renhe confirmed on 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 mainland media at the weekend 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 that talks with Lampard were under way.
“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 next year-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.
China has become an attractive destination for soccer 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 US$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.
Meanwhile, a report in China’s Soccer News newspaper on Monday quoted unnamed sources at Shenhua as saying Anelka could be on his way back to England.
The report, which could not be verified, comes as the British media suggested that Anelka is heading to English Premier League side West Ham United.