Shanghai Port midfielder Aaron Mooy is reportedly refusing to return to the club for this week’s delayed start of the Chinese Super League season, in favour of helping Australia’s bid to reach the World Cup. Mooy has received several requests to return to China for preseason training but has refused to do so, according to The Sydney Morning Herald . There were fears that a Covid-19 lockdown in Shanghai and restrictions in other Chinese cities could cause Mooy to be stuck there next week when the Socceroos play their World Cup play-off against the United Arab Emirates in Doha. The latest wave of the pandemic in China has already caused the football season there to be postponed. The CSL was supposed to kick off in March and will now begin on Friday, with all fixtures to be staged in three cities. Mooy, however, has stayed with other members of the Australia squad in Scotland, where they have been training. “The club wanted him to go back, the club was trying to force him to go back, but he wanted to be here with us,” said Australia coach Graham Arnold. “I won’t release the details of what that took for Aaron, but he’s made a big sacrifice to be here with us.” According to sources close to Mooy, his refusal to return to Shanghai could jeopardise his lucrative contract. The winner of the Socceroos’ Asian qualifying play-off next Tuesday will take on Peru a week later with a place at the World Cup finals in Qatar up for grabs. Mooy has been working on his fitness alongside other Europe-based Socceroos, having not played any competitive football in 2022 – in part because of the postponements to the CSL kick-off. While the 31-year-old’s presence there may not have been welcomed in Shanghai, it was a boost for his Australia boss. Shanghai faces talent exodus as lockdown dashes workers’ hopes for a better life “I trust him enormously,” Arnold said. “We’ve missed his quality on the pitch. He’s another player we have missed enormously right through the campaign. I am not saying he will start the game, but we have him here for his experience and his quality.” Mooy, who joined Shanghai Port in 2020 from English Premier League club Brighton & Hove Albion, was last year forced to miss some of Australia’s qualifying campaign after the CSL club called him back. Returning to China required Mooy to complete 14 days’ quarantine followed by a further 14 days of self-isolation, overlapping with Australia’s training camp. He was absent for the Asia region qualifying matches in November against Saudi Arabia in Sydney and China in UAE.