Brazilian-born striker Ricardo Goulart keen to play for China

Guangzhou Evergrande forward Ricardo Goulart has expressed his eagerness to play for China after becoming a naturalised Chinese citizen.

The Brazilian-born striker, who uses the Chinese name Gao Late, returned to China to complete the naturalisation process after agreeing to rescind his loan deal with Brazilian club Palmeiras in May, reports Xinhua news agency.

“Though I still have some formalities to go through, I am fully ready to serve the Chinese team, and I am waiting for my call-up,” said the 27-year-old striker in a video released on Thursday.

“I am a forward which is an important role on the field. I hope I can bring something positive to the national side along with other players who are as well important to the team,” he said.

Former Chinese team head coach Marcello Lippi, who had repeatedly complained about a dearth of attacking options, introduced Brazilian-born striker Elkeson, the first-ever naturalised player without Chinese ancestry to play for the country, into his squad last August for their World Cup qualifiers against the Maldives, Guam, the Philippines and Syria.

Li Tie, who took over the Chinese side in January after the abrupt departure of Lippi, called up three naturalised players for a training camp in mid-May in Shanghai.

Goulart is set to be the fourth foreign-born player to feature in the Chinese side.

“This is the first time in my life to change nationality, and I feel very happy to be Chinese. The people here have been friendly and taking good care of me, I enjoy myself very much living in China,” he said.

According to widespread press reports in Brazil, Guangzhou Evergrande, the most prestigious Chinese Super League club, persuaded Goulart to leave Palmeiras seven months earlier than planned by offering him a five-year contract extension and a pay rise.

Goulart has not played since suffering a right knee injury in late April. He subsequently underwent surgery to repair meniscus damage and is not expected to return to full fitness until July.