Chelsea hero Drogba seals Shanghai move

By AFP
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By AFP

6/20/2012 12:50:00 PM -

SHANGHAI (AFP) - Chelsea and Ivory Coast idol Didier Drogba Wednesday sealed a two-and-a-half-year deal with Shanghai Shenhua, becoming the biggest recruit so far to China's ambitious Super League.

The announcement ends months of speculation about the move, in which the striker will become China's best paid player with weekly pay of 200,000 pounds ($314,000), according to reports, and join ex-Chelsea team-mate Nicolas Anelka.

"Today I can inform you that I have signed with Chinese club Shanghai Shenhua FC for a two-and-a-half year deal (until the end of 2014)," Drogba, 34, said on his website. "I will fly out to join up with the squad in July."

Shanghai Shenhua posted a picture of Drogba wearing the team's blue shirt -- similar to Chelsea's -- on its website, and confirmed the deal in a brief statement.

Alongside Anelka, who joined Shenhua in January, Drogba will form a feared strike-force in the Chinese league, which has shrugged off years of corruption scandals with a spending spree on coaches and players.

Reigning champions Guangzhou Evergrande are spearheaded by imported South American talent, and they pulled off a coup by snaring the services of World Cup-winning Italian coach Marcello Lippi in May.

Shenhua, bankrolled by colourful video-game tycoon Zhu Jun, are in need of a boost as they currently lie 12th of 16 teams, with just three wins in 13 games this season.

And Drogba underlined his reputation as one of the English Premiership's most lethal strikers with a match-winning role in last month's Champions League final.

The imposing target man said he had received other offers but Shanghai "is the right move for me at this time", adding that he was encouraged by Chelsea's promotional visit to China last year.

"I am looking forward to a new challenge and to experiencing a new culture, and I am excited about the new developments in the Chinese Super League," he said.

"When Chelsea went to China last year, we had a great time and I met some amazing fans."

He added: "I hope to help promote Chinese football around the world and further improve the links between China and Africa."

Drogba will hope for a smoother start in Shanghai than Anelka, who was disaffected by management changes after coach Jean Tigana's quickfire sacking in April, and reportedly threatened to quit the club.

Fans hailed the move, Shao Chen writing on one of China's popular microblogging sites: "Today is such a good day. Anelka and Drogba, what terrifying strikers! Shenhua are the champions."

But others warned that buying big-name players may not help the development of Chinese players, who have repeatedly failed to make an impact on the international stage.

Drogba scored 157 goals in 341 appearances since joining Chelsea from Marseille in 2004. At Shenhua, he will work under former Argentine coach Sergio Batista, who joined the club late last month.

Last week, two former chiefs of China's football association were jailed for more than 10 years and four ex-internationals also received lengthy terms, in the climax of a major crackdown on football corruption.

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