Hong Kong Football Association (HKFA)

Forlan fighting fit and raring to go for Kitchee in AFC Champions League despite taking a year out of the game

New signing may come off the bench on Sunday but has a month to get match-ready to face the best teams on the continent

PUBLISHED : Friday, 12 January, 2018, 5:41pm
UPDATED : Friday, 12 January, 2018, 10:33pm

Uruguayan striker Diego Forlan has been unveiled as a Kitchee player at a press conference in Hong Kong on Friday afternoon.

The 38-year-old was introduced to the media and given shirt with his new squad number, 18, ahead of his first training session at the Kitchee training centre on Saturday.

Forlan said that he had missed an opportunity to train with his new teammates on Friday morning as he had been undergoing his medical ahead of signing a four-month contract with the club, which runs until the end of the Hong Kong Premier League season in May.

The former Atletico Madrid man eased concerns over his fitness, having not played competitively since leaving Indian Super League side Mumbai City in December 2016.

“I was training,” he said. “I didn’t play not because I didn’t have a chance to. I did have some offers during the year,” Forlan said before admitting his priorities last year included the birth of his second son.

“I keep training the whole year. About the physical it’s not a problem,” he added before admitting that match fitness would only come with games.

The first of those could be on Sunday where he will start on the bench for Kitchee’s Hong Kong Premier League game against Southern. Head coach Alex Chu was unwilling to confirm if he would make an appearance.

Forlan, who was signed to “close the gap” between Kitchee and the teams they will face in their debut AFC Champions League, has until February 13 when the side makes it’s bow in the competition to reach match fitness.

Their opening game is against the winners of a qualifying play-off and could be Chinese Super League side Tianjin Quanjian.

The Eagle has Forlan-ded: New Kitchee striker arrives in Hong Kong ahead of unveiling

Kitchee’s first home game is against K-League side Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors on February 20 and will be held at Hong Kong Stadium, with tickets going on sale from the club on January 22.

He has previous experience in the tournament from his 18-month stay at Cerezo Osaka of the J-League and while Forlan acknowledged that it will be tough he also said that the beauty of football is that it’s not necessarily the biggest-spending team who wins.

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

When asked whether he might stay beyond his current contract, Forlan said he would need to see how it went on the pitch and with his family, who have accompanied him to Hong Kong.

“I hope it’s going to be a good time, I wish,” he said, adding that he and his teammates can learn from each other.

Forlan said his motivation is that playing with Kitchee gives him opportunity to reach “20 years as a professional”, a career landmark he described as “a beautiful number”.

The two-time European Golden Boot winner thinks he has a few more miles in the tank.

“Physically I can still play for more years,” he said. “I love playing.”

Fans will be able to see him in action at the club’s open training session on January 20.

Kitchee will hope that Forlan can help them improve on the solitary point that Eastern picked up last year when they became the first Hong Kong team to take part in the AFC Champions League.