Wu Lei: How Espanyol forward is helping La Liga's attempt to overtake Premier League

Midway through the second half, with his team nervously holding a 2-1 lead in a crucial relegation battle against visiting Real Valladolid earlier this month, Espanyol midfielder Sergi Darder received possession 30 yards from goal.

Darder held off a challenge and released a perceptive through ball, splitting open the visiting defence and sending his team-mate through on goal.

The striker, who had timed his run to perfection, received Darder's pass in his stride, took another touch to set up a shot and calmly stroked a confident low finish past onrushing keeper Jordi Masip and inside the left post.

On the other side of the world, millions of people leaped out of their sofas to acclaim a moment of history.

The goalscorer was Wu Lei, a national hero for football fans in China. And he had just become the first Chinese player to score in La Liga, in a game watched by an estimated live television audience of 25 million in his homeland.

With that huge level of support following his every move, the impact of the forward's arrival in Spain extends far beyond Espanyol's attempts to stay in the top flight. Because Wu is also at the heart of La Liga's bold attempts to unseat the Premier League as the most popular football league in the world.

As Espanyol prepare for a local derby trip to Barcelona on Saturday afternoon, BBC Sport finds out more.

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