“I’ve always been very ambitious, I’ve always set my targets high and I’ve always tried to push the boundaries for myself.”
Li said his family had been concerned about him giving up his British passport.
“I think there was a lot of factors of what could this mean for the future? Is it possible for you to get your British passport back later on in life? How could that affect you coming back to the UK?” he said.
“These are all unknowns because it had never happened before. To me, I was just focused on playing football.”
As a child the family was more immersed in his father’s culture so moving to China was a big change — “new language, culture, food, everything”. Li has had to learn Chinese from scratch.
There was even a new name, which he first heard when he landed in Portugal for pre-season training and the driver picking him up was looking for “Li Ke”.
“And then he was like, that’s you. And I said, that’s not me, that’s not my name,” he recalled, laughing at the memory.