Shanghai: Ivory Coast striker Didier Drogba ended weeks of speculation about his future on Wednesday by following his former Chelsea teammate Nicolas Anelka in making a lucrative move to big-spending Chinese Super League strugglers Shanghai Shenhua.
Drogba had been tipped to make the move to the Far East since he announced last month he was leaving Chelsea after scoring the decisive penalty for the London club in their Champions League final shootout victory over Bayern Munich.
The 34-year-old would join up with his new teammates in July once his contract with Chelsea expired on June 30, Shanghai said in a statement on Wednesday.
“I have studied all the offers I had during the past few weeks and I have the feeling that going to Shanghai is the right direction for me now,” Drogba said on his website (www.didierdrogba.com).
“I am looking forward to that challenge, to discover a new culture and I am very enthusiastic about the development of the Chinese football league.”
Shanghai will be hoping the Ivorian, nicknamed ‘The Beast’ in China, can make an instant impact and help the side arrest a dismal start to the campaign which has left them sitting 12th in the 16-team league despite heavy investment.
After forking out huge sums for former France international Jean Tigana they sacked the manager after a poor start with Anelka taking over coaching duties only to be reluctantly replaced by former Argentine boss Sergio Batista.
No financial details of the two-and-a-half-year contract were revealed by Drogba, or the club, but widespread media reports said the Ivory Coast striker would receive in the region of $300,000 a week.
Whatever the cost, his signing is another coup for the reinvigorated Chinese Super League.
After years of negative headlines brought by match-fixing scandals which hit its credibility and led to jail terms for former Chinese football chiefs, signings of high-profile names like Drogba are now drawing attention for all the right reasons.
Ambitious Shanghai owner Zhu Jun posted a photo on his microblog site of Drogba and the club director Zhou Jun posing with a Shenhua shirt, with the caption “Our warmest welcome,” shortly after the powerful forward announced the move.
“The twin guns of Chelsea will now don the jerseys of Shanghai Shenhua to do battle at Hongkou Stadium,” Shanghai said on their website.
“This scene would perhaps only be played out on a fantasy football game. But today, this dream has become a reality. With hard work and determination, a dream will always become reality one day.”