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WEF Exclusive: Drogba will not join Shenhua

Blue shirts, Anelka and Drogba. One of the three will not be appearing at Hongkou next season

Contrary to international media reports, Didier Drogba will not be joining Nicolas Anelka at Shanghai Shenhua, a source familiar with the matter has told .

The stunning  signing of Anelka last month has sent the entire world football media into overdrive, with a seemingly endless parade of big-name stars  touted to be on their way to China. Drogba’s name has featured heavily amidst the hearsay, with  newly promoted Dalian Aerbin allegedly amongst his suitors.

But rumours that the Ivorian international may be on his way to Shenhua have intensified now that big-spending Guangzhou Evergrade issued a strongly-worded statement on their website denying any interest in the striker. In a completely unsourced report,  UK tabloid Daily Mirror claims Shenhua have offered Drogba a UKP 300,000 a week ($465,000) two-and-a half-year basic package, plus image rights and bonuses.

However the report lacks not only sources but also basic insight into the footballing landscape in China.

Currently Chinese Super League clubs can have a total of five foreign players in their squad, but the  “3+1 rule” states that each club can only have four foreign players on the pitch at one time, one of whom must be from an Asian country. ‘s source says it is very unlikely that Shenhua would sign three foreign strikers – the Hongkou side sealed the signature of Australian striker Joel Griffiths from Beijing Guoan last week.

The source told : “Both the Chinese and international media are so caught up in the hype and drama of what is going on in the Chinese Super League they are ignoring simple facts – Chinese Super League clubs can only play four foreign players on the field at once – why would Shenhua want to spend such a huge amount of money on three foreign strikers?”

Tabloid speculation

Shenhua’s entire foreign contingent from last season have all left the club, and with Griffiths and Anelka on board, the team has another two foreign slots available in their starting XI. But Shenhua badly lack a defensive midfielder and a commanding centre-back. Regardless of whether new coach Jean Tigana agrees with that assessment,  he must surely recognize the folly of using three of his four alloted foreign player slots on strikers. And as a respected coach  of international standing, he would surely be unlikely to tolerate any further meddling from Shenhua’s flamboyant owner Zhu Jun in transfer policy, even if can envisage the tycoon thinking bringing Drogba is a good idea.

Zhu Jun’s behaviour is fuelling the rumour mill. A colourful figure, he is revelling being in the international spotlight and has made no effort to distance Shenhua from another glamorous big-name international star. Somewhat cryptically, he  wrote on his weibo yesterday, “An agent told me to sign Drogba would be harder than buying a country’s president. No matter if you believe that or not, I believe it.” The wording of Zhu’s comment was a humorous reference to a popular internet neme mocking the railway ministry’s handling of the Wenzhou rail disaster last year.

The  source said. “Zhu Jun is the master of hype. He’s just enjoying basking in the international limelight, and rather than do what Guangzhou did, which is come straight out and say they aren’t interested in Drogba, Zhu is happy to keep his name and his club in the news. Shenhua have not made an offer for Drogba.”

Beijing-based managing editor Bcheng is in complete agreement and made his views crystal clear. He said, “Zhu Jun is very much a product of his city – much like Shanghai, he’s all flash and zero substance.  Unfortunately, he has the English media eating out of his hand these days.”

Zhu does directly suggest more big names are on the way to Hongkou stadium however  – a weibo post (below) shows an image depicting Anelka, Jean Tigana with a caption in English “who is the next?”.

Whoever it is, it is not going to be Drogba.

A leading international commentator on Chinese football frequently quoted by the world's top media. Offers piercing and resolutely honest insights into the bustling crossroads where football, society, economics and politics meet in contemporary China. Based in Shanghai since 2005, observer of the Chinese game since 2000.



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