It’s official: Nicolas Anelka joins Shanghai Shenhua on two year contract
As predicted by ‘s sources last week, Nicolas Anelka has agreed a two-year contract with Shanghai Shenhua, the club announced on its official website today. The 32-year-old former France international heads east after being frozen out at Chelsea and becomes the biggest signing ever in the history of Chinese domestic football.
According to various sources, the deal is reportedly worth $300,000 a week and Anelka will formally join Shenhua in January when the Chinese Super League transfer window opens. He has already selected number 39 as his squad number, according to Sina Sports.
The signing is an absolutely staggering one and has set the Chinese football world ablaze, indeed, the news was greeted with unrestrained joy in Shanghai. Crazed fans from Shenhua’s Blue Devil ultras group bombarded Chinese social networks with messages of disbelief and amazement. Blue Devil spokesman Johnathan Feng said on his weibo “Heavens. Am I dreaming? Anelka is going to join Shenhua?”
The electrifying effect of the record signing was not limited to fans – Shenhua squad members expressed their enthusiasm online also. Captain Yu Tao said on his weibo, “It’s impossible not to be excited by this – a warm welcome to our new team-mate!”, whilst the teams outspoken goalkeeper, Wang Dalei, had just one word to say about the signing on his weibo “NiuB! (Chinese slang for awesome).
The capture of the Frenchman also marks a 180-degree turn for Shenhua, who have just endured one of their worst-ever seasons and suffered last year from a lack of finance. Indeed, a spokesman for Commando Ultra Nord Anteriore, a sub-group of the Blue Devils, questioned where the money was coming from and why the club hadn’t splashed out to prevent key player Duvier Riascos leaving in the summer.
He said, “It’s a good thing for a big star to be in the team. However, I’m not sure why the boss is doing this – why not spend the much smaller amount it would have cost to keep Duvier Riascos last season?”
“The Frenchman will attract attention for sure, but the most important thing is winning the championship,” he continued, adding, “I think a lot of new fans will come to watch the team next year, but they are just spectators, they will quickly lose interest if Shenhua don’t win enough games.”
Anelka becomes the biggest name ever to play in China – only Paul Gascoinge’s short-term deal with now defunct Gansu Tianma in 2003 is of comparable repute – the then ailing English star played a mere four games and scored two goals at the Lanzhou-based second divison club.
Author: Cameron Wilson
UK trained journalist and long-time Chinese football observer Cameron Wilson has been writing about Chinese football since 2005 for various International and China-based news outlets such as Agence France-Presse, Goal.com, Shanghaiist, China Sports Review, That’s Shanghai, Time out Shanghai and City Weekend. In August 2010 he decided to launch a website dedicated to Chinese football as a central despository for all of his writings ont he subject.
He’s traveled all over China following Shanghai Shenhua as a fully paid-up member of its infamous Blue Devil’s supporters group.
His association with China stretches back over a decade, having first arrived in August 2000 to teach English for a year in a rural town a few hours northwest of Shanghai. He took in his first Chinese football match during this time – a 2-1 victory for Shanghai Shenhua against Dalian Shide. He went home to the UK in July 2001 but returned to China to live in Shanghai in 2005. Since then he’s been a Shanghai Shenhua season ticket holder and a member of the Blue Devil’s supporters’ club. The views expressed by him on Wild East Football may suffer from a slight bias to this effect.
He is also however, still very much a fan of his hometown team, Dunfermline Athletic. A “Par from afar”, as it were.
A passionate believer in the power of the beautiful game to build bridges between diverse peoples and cultures, he was the first foreign fan to travel with the Blue Devil fans’ club to an away match – a tremendous 3-2 victory for Shenhua over Beijng Guoan in September 2007.
Cameron speaks decent mandarin and can crack jokes in Shanghainese.