DOHA (AFP) – Shanghai SIPG coach Vitor Pereira said out-of-favour forward Hulk lacked the “right spirit” after a spat that may have brought the Brazil international’s time at the club to a bad-tempered close.
The Portuguese dropped the powerfully built Hulk, 34, for the second straight game on Tuesday (Dec 1), a surprise 4-0 thrashing by already-eliminated Sydney FC in the AFC Champions League’s Group H.
It follows an exchange between the two after Hulk was taken off during last Wednesday’s 1-0 defeat by Yokohama F Marinos, when the Brazilian mouthed off at Pereira before storming down the tunnel.
On Tuesday, Pereira was candid when asked about Hulk, a talisman for the Shanghai side who has totted up 100 Chinese Super League appearances and captained them to the domestic title in 2018.
“I want the players with the right spirit to play,” the 48-year-old said after the Sydney defeat. “This is my decision (not to play him) and that is why he is not here.”
Hulk’s contract is up at the end of this year, and he posted what appeared to be a valedictory message after the coronavirus-delayed Chinese season.
The 48-cap Brazil international signed from Zenit St Petersburg in 2016 for a reported €55.8 million (S$90 million), then an Asian record.
On Monday, he posted a picture on Chinese social media of himself in training, with the caption: “Physically I’m strong, but psychologically I’m even stronger.”
SIPG are through to the knock-out phase in the Champions League, which is being played in a bio-secure “bubble” in Doha.