Newcastle Jets today confirmed that former Chinese youth international Ma Leilei has joined the club as its fifth visa player for the Hyundai A-League 2016/17 Season.
Ma joins the Jets having last played in the Ledman LigaPro (second division) in Portugal with Cova da Piedade from the city of Almada
Ma - who arrived in Australia a fortnight ago - trialled with the Jets during the Club’s 2016 tour of China, playing in three matches off the bench against Liaoning Whowin FC, Eastern SC (Hong Kong) and Kitchee SC (Hong Kong) in late August and early September.
The former Tianjin Teda midfielder, 27, will wear the number 18 kit for the Jets during the forthcoming campaign.
Ma featured for Tianjin in the 2009 version of the AFC Champions League, scoring twice in seven minutes in a 3-1 win over Japanese giants Kawasaki Frontale, and playing minutes against the Jets’ local rivals Central Coast Mariners.
“I am very excited to join the Jets,” Ma said with the assistance of Jets staff member Rocky Liu. “The whole Club has given me a lot of help, and I will try to do my best to repay the faith that has been put in me to come to Newcastle.”
“As a professional footballer coming from China to Australia I need to get used to the different environment. I am trying to learn English so I can enjoy the life here and interact with my teammates better.”
“Of course I feel the pressure of being the only Chinese player in the (Hyundai) A-League, but I hope I can turn that pressure into motivation. I want to do my best not only to represent myself and Ledman Group, but also Chinese players,” Ma said.
Newcastle Jets Head Coach Mark Jones said Ma’s conditioning is improving rapidly, and that he believes the Chinese midfielder can provide a spark for his side.
“Leilei has got a lovely left peg, which we don’t have in terms of delivery of set pieces, so that gives us another option there,” Jones said. “More importantly he has got that little ‘X Factor’, that little bit of silk under pressure where he can make something out of nothing.”
“He is exceptionally good in tight areas in terms of improvising and making things happen.”
“This weekend (against Sydney FC) might be a little bit too early, but I would expect in the next couple of weeks he may be able to make an impact,” Jones concluded.