SHANGHAI (Reuters) - As Shanghai Shenhua players purred about lining up alongside new signing Didier Drogba, manager Sergio Batista said he was closing in on the transfer of Colombian international Giovanni Moreno to further boost the Chinese Super League strugglers.
Ivory Coast striker Drogba announced he had agreed a two-and-a-half year deal with Shanghai on Wednesday, but rather than sit back and bask in the monumental deal for Chinese football, former Argentina boss Batista was focusing on the next big name.
Moreno, 25, who currently plays for Racing Club in Argentina, has been identified as the man to provide the assists for Drogba and Batista said he was hopeful the attacking midfielder would be in China before the month was out.
“Perhaps there are still some problems with (Giovanni) Moreno’s club. I hope that he can arrive in Shanghai this week or next week,” the manager told reporters at the club’s weekly news conference on Thursday.
“The club has put in a lot of effort to bring him here so we are still waiting for these problems to be sorted out. He will not be able to play for this weekend’s game but I hope he can be available for the next game.”
Shanghai said their dreams had come true when they confirmed they had signed Drogba and could pair the Ivory Coast striker up front with former France international Nicolas Anelka.
Drogba will join up with his new team mates in July after his contract with Chelsea expires and Batista could not wait for the powerful forward, known as ‘The Beast’ in China, to arrive.
“I personally would like him to be at the club as soon as possible,” Batista said.
“My only wish is that he keeps a good fitness level because he has not been playing football for a while.”
While the transfer of Drogba, on a reported wage of $300,000 a week, attracted global headlines, some fans in China were disappointed that so much money was going to one player and not being invested in developing young local players for the national team.
However, Shanghai defender Dai Lin believed the arrival of Drogba can be beneficial in improving standards.
“The transfer of Drogba is a good thing for both our team as well as for Chinese football,” Dai told reporters.
“We have much to learn from such an international football star, such as his professionalism and football skills. And after all, Drogba is someone who has won the European Champions League.”
Shanghai players and supporters will be hopeful Drogba, who scored the decisive penalty as Chelsea beat Bayern Munich to win the Champions League last month, can make an instant impact after their disappointing start to the season.
Shanghai are 12th in the 16-team standings after a poor opening 13 games. Batista is their third coach of the season after they dismissed former France international Jean Tigana and ended Anelka’s brief spell in temporary charge, despite protests by the striker who wanted to continue.
“Everyone in our team is very happy because we have been hoping for this announcement for a long time,” Shanghai midfielder Yu Tao said.
“Our players expressed their happiness and hope that with his transfer, we can perform much better in the second half of the season.”
Writing by Patrick Johnston in Singapore; Editing by John O'Brien