Diego Forlan leaves his legacy at Kitchee as final Hong Kong Premier League game looms
The former Uruguay international will not renew his contract with the Hong Kong champions after four months in the city
Kitchee coach Chu Chi-kwong has thanked Diego Forlan for helping lift the club to another level, as the legendary striker gets set to play his final game for the Hong Kong Premier League champions on Sunday.
The club announced on Tuesday that the former Manchester United, Villarreal and Atletico Madrid star would be leaving, soon after a video featuring Forlan unveiling their new kit was posted on Kitchee’s Facebook account.
“I don’t think many people in the region would have heard about Kitchee before but thanks to Forlan, this has been changed,” said Chu.
“We are the Hong Kong champions but not too many people cared until we brought him in. There has been a lot more coverage on Forlan and Kitchee when we play overseas and now people are getting to know who we are.
Kitchee present their new kit for next season and will wear it for the first time on Sunday, May 13, for the last match of THIS season pic.twitter.com/ntv3QR2dNN
— Football in HK (@offsideHK) May 8, 2018
“His arrival has also changed the changing room atmosphere. He is such a classy player but is also very nice.
“He is willing to help his fellow teammates who have not even dreamed to play along with a World Cup star.”
Chu said that even though former Uruguay international Forlan – who will turn 39 next week – has scored just six goals for Kitchee, his vast experience up front has been invaluable and he has entertained the fans.
It is widely expected Forlan, who had not played for a year since leaving Indian Super League side Mumbai City before arriving in Hong Kong, will retire from football after his last game this weekend.
The coach did not give any reason for Forlan’s departure, but said the South American has plans to open a soccer school and promote the sport worldwide.
“He will be doing some work at the World Cup in Russia after leaving Hong Kong and that’s all we know. We wish him good luck,” said Chu.
Forlan’s last game is against Yuen Long at Mong Kok Stadium and a win against the sixth-placed side would take Kitchee to 50 points and an unbeaten record for the whole season.
The 2010 World Cup Golden Ball winner was signed in January ahead of Kitchee’s debut season in the AFC Champions League main round, but he did not get on the scoresheet during the club’s six games. He did, however, assist the side’s only goal in the competition, Cheng Chin-lung’s last-minute winner against Kashiwa Reysol at Hong Kong Stadium.
That was the first goal scored by a Hongkonger in the competition and the first win by a Hong Kong team.
Kitchee chose to play their first two home games at the much larger Hong Kong Stadium, rather than Mong Kok, in part because of Forlan’s star appeal.
The club were expectant that his arrival and Champions League football would reignite interest in the local game, stating an attendance target of 20,000 for their opening game against Korean K-League champions Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors.
Instead a crowd of just over 13,000 attended with a little over half that in the stands for the historic win on match day four.
Nevertheless, Forlan’s signing is reported to have paid for itself. The striker was rumoured to be earning around US$300,000 for the duration of his four-month contract.
Five of Forlan’s six goals came in the Hong Kong Premier League. He scored two in a 7-0 win over BC Rangers and hit a hat-trick as his side beat Lee Man Warriors 5-1. He also scored in the FA Cup quarter-finals when Kitchee defeated Lee Man Warriors 4-3.
He will not play in either the Sapling Cup final on May 19 or the Hong Kong FA Cup final on May 26 as the champions look for a treble. Kitchee play Tai Po in both games.