Hong Kong Football Association (HKFA)

Blond ambition: Former World Cup Golden Ball winner Diego Forlan signs for Kitchee

Former Uruguay striker joins Hong Kong Premier League champions to spearhead their debut continental campaign

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 04 January, 2018, 5:32pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 04 January, 2018, 6:00pm

Hong Kong Premier League champions Kitchee have confirmed the signing of Uruaguyan striker Diego Forlan, with the player due to arrive in Hong Kong on January 10.

The 38-year-old is expected to be unveiled by the club at their press conference the following day.

The former Manchester United and Atletico Madrid player has been a free agent since leaving Indian Super League side Mumbai City in December 2016.

Forlan comes highly recommended by his former teammate in Mumbai City, Krisztian Vadocz, the former Hungary international who joined Kitchee in early 2017. Vadocz was with Forlan in the Indian side before moving to Hong Kong.

Forlan, who scored 36 times in 112 appearances for his country, will reportedly become the highest paid player in Hong Kong soccer and is the league’s most high-profile signing since his former Manchester United teammate Nicky Butt signed for South China in 2010.

He has been signed to lead the club in their debut AFC Champions League campaign which kicks off on February 13.

Kitchee’s first home game in the competition is against South Korea’s Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors, the champions of last season’s K-League Classic, at Mong Kok Stadium.

Hong Kong is the latest stop in a career that has seen Forlan play for some of the world’s biggest clubs and win major trophies along the way, including the 2011 Copa America with his country.

His professional career began at Independiente in Argentina before moving to England in 2002, where he became a cult figure among Manchester United fans during his two year stay at Old Trafford and won the Premier League title in his first full season. Forlan then moved to Spanish side Villareal, where his goals guided the club to their first ever Uefa Champions League appearance and he shared the European Golden shoe in 2005. The following season Forlan helped the club to the semi-finals of the Champions League before moving to Atletico Madrid.

His time in the Spanish capital brought an outright win of the European golden shoe and acclaim on the international stage when he starred for Uruguay in their run to the semi-finals of the 2010 World Cup held in South Africa.

Forlan would finish the World Cup as joint top goalscorer with five goals and take the Golden Ball awarded to the best player at the tournament.

He also played for Inter Milan in Italy, Brazilian side Internacional, Cerezo Osaka in Japan and childhood club Penarol in Uruguay before joining Mumbai City.

The striker might not be the last signing that Kitchee make but the decision on bringing in another player will be decided after the club assess Helio’s recovery from injury, the club statement said.