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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.”

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, would not be surprised if Zhu Jun, Anelka, Drogba and Moreno were all at Hongkou next season.

UK trained journalist and long-time Chinese football observer Cameron Wilson has been writing about Chinese football for over a decade…

10 Comments

10 Comments

  1. DKB2

    28/08/2012 at 00:20

    how credible is that report?

    • shanghai ultra

      28/08/2012 at 09:32

      The Oriental Sports Daily has a lot of inside contacts in Shenhua, it’s clear something serious is going on, but as we wrote in this report, they are really focusing a bit too much on the worst case scenario by saying Anelka and Drogba may soon be off. Whilst that is a possibility, personally I can’t see it happening. This story, which was exclusive to WEF for the English language internet, is now appearing elsewhere http://english.cri.cn/8046/2012/08/28/2941s719065.htm

  2. Shinpath

    28/08/2012 at 15:59

    Bluff and counter-bluff at a high-stakes shareholder poker game.

  3. Shinpath

    28/08/2012 at 21:14

    CNN World Sport picked up the story today, hinting that Drogba and Anelka might be available for a quick sale.

  4. Lee SC Zen

    28/08/2012 at 22:04

    Regardless of whether it’s true/false, we cannot deny that football clubs are increasingly beholden to these rich sugardaddy… Even at Chelsea, now that Roman Abramovich has his hands of CL trophy , there’s a big question mark when he will stop funding the club… Ultimately, it’s an unsustainable situation…

    • BulaimeiShanghai

      29/08/2012 at 09:07

      Exactly, the next step will be sustainability. I want to support a solid, foot on the ground football team which is not flip-flopping when times are becoming hard but sticks to the taken course, I would not support the gambler in the casino, I can not identify and associate with him. So whatever happens in this situation, in the long run things need to be improved and I agree, I also want less influence of sugar daddy’s, but at the given time, the league still continues rely on those. I wonder which club in the CSL can solely rely on their revenue and how far are the others from that. Probably a long shot, but one that the league and the club owners should seriously take a look at very quickly.

      • Steve

        29/08/2012 at 10:20

        Haha, spot the German!
        Just kidding. There’s an awful lot that English football, let alone the CSL, could learn from that football set-up, both at a national & league level.

  5. kevincrumbs

    29/08/2012 at 07:30

    That sound you hear is all the southerners laughing at Shenhua…

  6. BulaimeiShanghai

    29/08/2012 at 08:24

    The laugh is surely on your site at the moment, but I wonder how much of a youth development program the teams in south have installed at their clubs. Once the money is gone, or becomes a scarce resource, the party is over. Just like many of the Premiership clubs in England. Shenhua needs to learn that the hard way and I rather want them to learn that lesson faster than slower, even if it will be painful.

  7. Jahn

    13/09/2012 at 00:29

    I just read on a German football news site, that Drogba is connected with Arsenal and Juventus and might return to Europe in Winter (it was on their rumour page, but they usually are right with those). Especially Arsenal could need someone to replace Van Persie.
    They didn’t say anything about payment problems with Shenhua or something though.

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