Anelka: “Shenhua doesn’t trust me” – exclusive translation
Yesterday Shenhua were in the international news headlines yet again, when Anelka threatened to leave Shenhua, ostensibly over the imminent arrival of former Argentina manager Sergio Batista. News outlets quoted a Xinmin Evening News report published on Monday May 21, in which Anelka complained of a lack of support from the club, and of “games” being played behind his back. brings you the full interview translated into English, in which Anelka says he has no influence over transfer policy and that the club doesn’t trust him, giving his coaching staff short six-month contracts. Read on for the full report as Anelka speaks his mind about Shenhua’s sorry plight so far this season.
[Reporters’ notes] Last night when we saw Anelka on the Bund it was already 10pm. He had been very busy and said after last Saturday’s match, he slept for just one hour. He had no chance to see the Champions League final, or make a telephone call to Drogba. In fact he had been discussing Shenhua’s current situation with the coaching team, as more and more off-pitch factors begin to complicate matters for him. It’s the first time we’ve heard Anelka say he is tired, that communication is difficult and winning games has been difficult, but he is still persevering with the situation.
Anelka took the initiative to contact us and arrange this interview, and its the first exclusive interview with any media since he became player-coach at Shenhua. Evidently, he has spoken his mind.
After last Saturday’s defeat away to Henan Construction，Shenhua are now third from bottom, leaving their target of winning the league looking more and more distant. The first thing Anelka says is that, at this present stage, it’s very difficult for Shenhua to win any games.
Reporter: Since you joined the coaching staff at Shenhua, you’ve led the team to just one victory, why is that?
Anelka: Although we have good players, they are too young and inexperienced, most have only 1-2 years of Chinese Super League experience. At the stage Shenhua are at right now, its hard for them to win, I think this issue is quite serious.
R: The fans always chant “Shenhua are champions”, but does the team still have a shot at the title this year?
A: At the moment it seems we have to fight to stay up.
R: But when you joined Shenhua, you didn’t think things would turn out like this, right?
A: Last November when I signed with Shenhua, I would never have imagined it.
R: So why did you really come to Shenhua?
A: Because of Shanghai, because of the culture, the lifestyle here really attracted me. London, Madrid, Paris, such kind of international cities, at that time, it seemed Shanghai was of this ilk. So I came to China fully believing in Shanghai, I didn’t want to go anywhere else.
[Reporters’ notes] Ever since Anelka joined Shenhua, he’s had something on his mind. Every week there were stories of star players coming to Shenhua, but none of those he wanted to see in Shanghai ended up coming.
R: Since you came, the names of many star players have been mentioned in connection with Shenhua. Are these genuine?
A: I was the first to sign, but after I arrived, the club didn’t bring any of the players I suggested, as far as I’m concerned, this is my biggest regret – after I joined, Shenhua should have been able to attract more big-name players. More importantly, Shenhua only decided on all their foreign players just a few weeks before the season began.
R: Are you referring to the mid-season transfer window, or the one just before the season started?
A: I’m referring to last November when I joined, I knew which star players in Europe were out of contract and recommended a few, but the club didn’t sign any of them.
R: Can you reveal a few names?
A: Nevermind… it’s pointless to reveal now.
R: What type of player is Shenhua most lacking now, do you think?
A: Someone who can deliver passes to the strikers, a really good creative midfielder with a tough mentality who can deliver exquisite passes.
[Reporters’ notes] Since Tigana left, it could be said Anelka’s shake-up of the team has been bold and decisive, giving debuts to many youth players and sacrificing himself as the club’s primary force on the park. As for criticism of his coaching, Anelka is very clear in his mind, he is firm in his footballing philosophy. He feels that since he hasn’t much chance to play as an out-and-out striker at Shenhua, he may as well put his efforts into training and developing Shenhua’s young players.
R: The fans are a little disappointed not to see an Anelka playing as an out-and-out striker on the pitch.
A: I would also like to play in this role, and I also want to win, but its impossible. Who can pass the ball to me? I have no choice but to run around between midfield and attack. What’s more, amongst our forwards, Griffiths has been injured a lot, and Manset feels he is not suited to the Chinese league. Also, our other attacking players have a look at their all-time Chinese Super League scoring records. Feng Renliang has scored 7, Wang Fei none, Cao Yunding two. Our squad is really young, they need more experience.
R: So how are you going to improve the squad?
A: My professional playing career is nearing its end, but I can still help develop these young players, I hope in five years they can play in the Chinese national team and get the chance to play in Europe, as Sun Jihai did. So I have promoted Gu Bin, Fan Liingjiang, Liu Junnan to the first team. If I don’t give young players a chance now, they might never make it to a higher level later.
R: In the last game you didn’t select Jiang Kun and Feng Renliang, why?
A: I rested them, although they are remarkable players, I felt they needed a rest. I made a rule, that is, everyone has an equal chance to get picked.
R: It’s said that there is friction between Dai Lin and Manset, is that why you didn’t pick Dai Lin for the last match?
A: Dai Lin just lost his father, I hope he can get over this, once he has fully recovered he can play again. Manset hasn’t been playing and his morale has suffered. I want to emphasize that our squad is a family and everyone must unite to overcome difficulties.
R: Shenhua brought you here so they club could win, but now many are starting to criticize you.
A: I want to win as well but its impossible. I can only concentrate on playing up front if the club bring the foreign players I need, and only if they bring an outstanding midfielder can the club win. Otherwise no matter which new coach comes, the club will continue to fail.
Previously, commonly seen.
[Reporters’ notes] After all is said and done, has Zhu Jun clearly stated that Anelka is the manager of Shenhua？Anelka has yet to give a clear answer either, stating only that “The squad approves of me picking the team.”
R: Can you explain your present role at Shenhua? What kind of role is a player-manager?
A: In essence, I’m the manager, as I pick the team and I control training sessions.
R: When you were given this role, was it because you requested it or did the club appoint you of its own accord?
A: The team approved that I become manager. This way, the club don’t need to pay any more money, I’m doing two jobs but still only paid for one.
R: Another manager, or an outstanding midfielder, which do you think the team needs more?
A: A great midfielder, of course.
R: If Drogba comes, will you coach the team together with him?
A: No. I’m the manager now. If he comes, we will work together to bring the team victories.
R: So, might he be unhappy about that?
A: No, he is a good friend of mine. I’ve spoken about this with him before, he has absolutely no objections.
R: There aren’t many players in world football like you holding two jobs at the same time, why are you holding this kind of role?
A: This used to be common, Rudd Gullit and Gianluca Vialli both started their management careers as player-managers for Chelsea. Although nowadays this dual role is less common.
[Reporters’ notes] For the first half hour of the interview, Anelka’s facial expression was calm. When asked about Drogba, he becomes more animated in his answer. “I don’t know, its his decision.” Actually what Anelka doesn’t know, is his own future.
R: I heard that the club hasn’t been succesful in trying to bring Spanish international player Marcos Senna. Is he someone you wanted to bring to Shenhua?
A: He is almost 36, I think it’s strange, I think they should have asked me first about who they want. They haven’t brought a single player I asked for, that’s my biggest regret, I think they don’t trust me.
R: What else bothers you at the moment?
A: First of all, how long have I held the post of player-manager? My contract with Shenhua is for two years, but my coaching assistants are only on six month contracts. Secondly, what is the future direction of this team? I think the club and I have different philosophies.
R: If the club invites a new manager to come in the near future, can you accept this?
A: I’m not sure I can. At least the club should have informed me at the time I was made manager.
R: How are you feeling about it right now?
A: I feel sorry for my team, the current situation is making it difficult for me to focus on on-pitch matters. If no-one supports me, and they continue to play games behind my back, then I’ll quickly decide whether to retire or not. This depends on what happens in the next few weeks.
R: Regarding this matter, have you spoken with Zhu Jun about it?
A: Not yet, because I don’t want it to affect team morale going forward, but I hope the present situation can be brought up properly.
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.