Ivory Coast football star Didier Drogba has arrived to a hero’s welcome in China, to take up a contract to play for Shanghai Shenhua. Hundreds of fans of the struggling Chinese Super League team greeted the 34-year-old former Chelsea star at Shanghai’s Pudong airport.
Drogba’s reported $300,000 (£193,000) a week salary makes him one of the world’s highest paid footballers. Drogba is among many foreign stars who have made recent moves to China.
He joins former Chelsea colleague Nicolas Anelka at Shanghai Shenhua. Soon after his arrival, Drogba insisted he had not come for the money. He said: “It would have been easier for me to stay in Europe, but I chose China. Money is not the most important [thing]. I am here for a whole new experience.”
The BBC’s John Sudworth in Shanghai says that Shenhua is a club with an ambition that far outstrips its modest earnings. Hundreds of fans welcomed Drogba at Shanghai’s Pudong airport. Drogba’s reputed salary is not far off the club’s total revenue from ticket sales and advertising combined, he says.
Like other big spending Chinese clubs, our correspondent says, the maths add up only because of the big spending ways of the owners and the multi-billion-dollar companies they run.
The hope is that the injection of new foreign talent will help to raise standards in China. But some fans fear the signings are simply a vanity and publicity drive for the corporations behind the deals, our correspondent says, and that not enough is being done to develop the grassroots of the game.
Drogba has his work cut out. Shanghai Shenhua are one point off the bottom of the 16-club Chinese Super League. He could be introduced to fans at Saturday’s fixture against Beijing Guoan and may make his debut in the Cup at Changchun next week.
Drogba scored 157 goals in 341 appearances for Chelsea and was on target to help them win the Champions League final this year. BBC