SHANGHAI (Reuters) - The ink is barely dry on Nicolas Anelka’s groundbreaking contract with Shanghai Shenhua but already the Chinese Super League club is working to pull off another major transfer coup by signing his Chelsea team mate Didier Drogba.
Shanghai Director Zhou Jun told Reuters in an interview on Monday his club had already spoken to Drogba and were ready to continue their lavish spending if the Ivory Coast international was prepared to switch west London for the Far East.
Anelka will become the biggest name to ply his trade in the world’s most populous nation when the striker joins Shanghai Shenhua in January. The Chinese club said Monday it had agreed a two-year deal with the Frenchman.
Zhou, who also expects former Bordeaux coach Jean Tigana to arrive as manager in January, said bringing in foreign talent was essential for the growth of Chinese soccer, which has been blighted by scandals and corruption in recent years.
“Drogba is an excellent player. We got in touch with him two weeks ago,” Zhou told Reuters near Shanghai’s Pudong training ground. “From our club’s perspective, we have this to say -- If he is willing to come, we will definitely welcome him.”
The signing of Anelka and pursuit of other marquee players is evidence of the growing financial might of Chinese clubs.
Zhou said the Frenchman would certainly not be taking a paycut.
“People are aware of Anelka’s Chelsea yearly salary which is around 5.8 million euros (5 million pounds). So when he comes to China it definitely won’t be below this figure,” he said.
Anelka’s arrival would have a major impact on Chinese soccer, he added. The 32-year-old would raise the standard of soccer in the country but he would also set an example to young people and inspire them to take up the game.
“It’s like with the opening up of China,” Zhou said. “We needed to bring in the good stuff from foreign countries for us to learn from.”
Shanghai Shenhua, who finished 11th in the league last year, were a young club and Anelka’s presence would give players someone to look up to, Zhou added.
Anelka, who’s playing career has included stints at Real Madrid, Arsenal, Paris St Germain and Fenerbahce, is likely to be joined in Shanghai by compatriot Tigana.
”Tigana, from the looks of it currently, is not a big problem,“ said Zhou. ”When he was last in Shanghai he said the next time he is seen there it would be to coach Shenhua Football Club.
“So if you see Tigana at Shanghai International Airport you know he’s our coach.”
Editing by Peter Rutherford