By Bridget O’Donnell
So much for a warm welcome.
Just hours after the Daily Mail reported that Didier Drogba was set to leave Chelsea and finally sign a £250,000-a-week (RMB 2.5 million-a-week!) contract with Shanghai Shenhua, Nicolas Anelka — Drogba’s former teammate/entire reason for coming to Shanghai — threatened to quit the team all together.
Drogba, the 34-year-old Ivorian striker who just scored the game-winning goal for Chelsea in the 88th minute of a dramatic European Cup final on Saturday, is said to be joining Anelka in Shanghai sometime this week, according to an exclusive report by Chinese Football blog Wild East Football.
But things got complicated after Anelka critcized the team’s lack of support yesterday. He threatened to leave, telling Chinese media:
“If there is still no one to support me and (they) continue to play little tricks behind my back… then I will quickly decide whether or not to retire.
The signing will come just a few weeks after Anelka told Chinese media that he already knew of Drogba’s decision. The Shenhua player-coach wouldn’t say exactly what that decision was, but his tone suggested Drogba would stay put in Chelsea.
Turns out that may have all been some fancy PR footwork. Wild East Football quotes a source close to the team as saying:
“It’s all hype, a smokescreen, orchestrated by [Shenhua club owner] Zhu Jun to keep the club in the headlines and divert attention from Shenhua’s lacking performances so far. I wouldn’t say Drogba was going to sign for Shenhua all along since all this started – but all I can say now is that he is coming and will most likely sign soon after the Champions League final.”
Zhu has been trying to poach Drogba for months now. In addition to reportedly keeping Drogba’s number warm, he wrote on Weibo back in March: “It’s like flirting with a girl. Perhaps she will resist you at first, but if you continue to ask her out, it always ends well. Never give up.”
Shenhua is in the midst of a massive reshuffling. Following disappointing mid-season standings, the club fired head coach Jean Tigana last month. The ensuing mediastorm lasted for weeks.
And if the latest comments from Anelka are any indication, Shenhua’s rebuilding effort still has a long way to go.