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.
Ground: Hongkou Football Stadium, Hongkou District, Shanghai
Capacity: 35,000 (26,000 for football)
Honours: Chinese top-tier league champions: 1995
Chinese top-tier league runners-up: 1996, 1997, 1998, 2000, 2001, 2005, 2006, 2008
Chinese FA Cup winners: 1998
Chinese FA Cup runners up: 1995, 1997, 2015