Shanghai shocker: Drogba and Anelka may have played their last games for Shenhua
Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka’s short Shanghai Shenhua careers may already be over due to an imminent financial crisis at the club, according to an alarming story in today’s Oriental Sports Daily.
The Shanghai-based newspaper today alleges that due to a shareholder dispute, Zhu Jun is set to pull his investment out of the club before the CSL season resumes on September 15, meaning the club will no longer be able to afford the astronomical wages of Drogba and Anelka.
The report also suggests that Zhu Jun blocked Giovanni Moreno from playing on Saturday as part of a “silent protest” and warning to other shareholders of the club.
The Oriental Sports Daily claims that, as part of a deal which took place in 2007 when Zhu Jun bought Shanghai Shenhua and merged it with his previous club Shanghai United, his shareholdings would rise from 28.5% to 80% within two years if he invested more than 150 million RMB (19 million Euros approx). However, four years later this transfer has yet to be complete, for reasons unexplained in the report.
The report claims that Buenos Aires outfit Racing Club have so far only received 2 million USD of Moreno’s 9 million USD transfer fee, and that the question of which investors should pay the shortfall has brought the long-running shareholder dispute to a head, hence Zhu Jun telling head coach Sergio Batista that he couldn’t select Giovanni Moreno for Saturday’s game against Shandong.
Indeed, the report quotes a source inside the club as saying “There was absolutely nothing wrong with Moreno’s fitness” – the Columbian did not travel to Jinan on Saturday due to what Batista said was a “personal issue”.
As far as Drogba and Anelka suddenly leaving the club goes, the report makes no mention of how Shenhua would rid themselves of the considerable contractual obligations they have towards the superstar pair. It may be that Zhu Zhun would simply reach some kind of compensatory agreement with them, if, as the report claims, Zhu decides to withdraw his investment from the club.
The report soberly asks what may happen if Zhu Jun withdraws his cash and the other shareholders are willing to pay Drogba and Anelka’s “astronomical” wages.
A source tells the newspaper: “It’s possible that the club can find another investor, but under the current share structure, it will be difficult to find someone willing to wade into these muddy waters, and of course, Shenhua could always file for bankruptcy.”
The issue of who exactly owns what proportion of Shanghai Shenhua are unclear as even the Oriental Post confesses: “In actual fact, the question of what proportion of shares Zhu Jun and each of the other 5 big investors own at Shenhua has always been a mystery, yet its a mystery which has persisted for six years without being solved.”
The paper quotes a source with inside knowledge of the situation as saying “The coming days during this break the share dispute will become a huge topic, and the outcome will directly influence the quality of foreign player Shenhua have at the club next season. If the other shareholders aren’t able to come to an understanding and offer their support, Zhu Jun will leave the club at the end of the season and no longer support it.”
WEF has to qualify this whole story by pointing out that the Chinese media, and particularly football media, are prone to printing alarmist stories and printing rumours. Sources are almost never named, and whilst that is part of the culture of the place, it takes away a level of accountability in such news stories. So this story has to be looked at as a worst case scenario.
There is also the fact Zhu Jun has made all sorts of threats to pull out of Shenhua before, and later retracting them, even going to the trouble of deleting posts from his Weibo to that effect. Whilst this story isn’t over yet, WEF would not be surprised if Zhu Jun, Anelka, Drogba and Moreno were all at Hongkou next season.