Didier Drogba, the man who scored the winning penalty in one of the world’s most revered club tournament finals, UEFA Champions League final, is moving teams from the blue of West London for the blue of Puxi. The rumours of his arrival have been circulating ever since his ex-Chelsea team mate, Nicolas Anelka, joined in January this year, which in itself was something of a great coup for Shanghai Shenhua.
It’s not the first time that a player has moved in the twilight of his career to a league that is rather unknown for financial reasons. It is totally understandable when you are offered around £200,000 aweek to play football that you’d move to a place that you wouldn’t normally have considered. Nevertheless Drogba, even though he is 34, is still in his prime and would still do a good job at Chelsea for at least another season if not more. A player of this calibre coming to the Chinese Super League is definitely a statement of intent. Or is it?
It is no secret that China’s football league is beset with rumours about corruption, despite recent attempts by the authorities at cracking down on corruption in the league. For example, the imprisonment of Nan Yong and Xie Yalong, two ex-heads of the Chinese FA, along with four ex-Chinese international players, Qi Hong, Jiang Jin, Li Ming and Shen Si.
There is something more that comes with joining a Chinese team, you then become subject to a Chinese owner.
Enter the infamous manager of Shanghai Shenhua, Zhu Jun…
Ignoring his media stunt at the 2007 Port’s Cup summer tournament where he forced the current Shenhua manager to put him in the starting XI against Liverpool, his actions have been encompassed in his antics this season with Shenhua.
On a backdrop of threatening to move the team out of Shanghai, in January he signed Nicolas Anelka and also the highly-respected Jean Tigana as head coach. Tigana brought in the backroom staff that he saw fit, with a few other signings e.g. Joel Griffiths from Beijing Guo’an and Matthieu Manset on loan from Reading. So, at the start of this current Chinese Super League season it definitely looked as if Shanghaiwould coast to the league championship.
It was, however, an inauspicious start when one of their pre-season games was abandoned after a mass brawl against Nanchang Hengyuan, and with only 5 league games in charge, in April it appeared that Tigana was on the verge of dismissal. But in a backroom battle with Zhu Jun that lasted 48 hours and consisted of the sacking of the entire backroom staff, Tigana was formally released in mid-April after their loss against Tianjin Taida. With then a strange turn of events, Nicolas Anelka then became appointed player-manager of the team, with the job of hiring his own backroom staff which consisted of former colleagues to fill the positions.
Then in a twist of events, at the end of May, the formerArgentinamanager Sergio Batista was appointed the new manager of Shenhua, which Anelka found out through the media rather than from the club.
A team that should be dominating the rest of the league should not sit 13th in the Chinese Super League, just as Manchester United are never embroiled in any relegation dog-fight in the English Premier League. This is just unacceptable. The root cause inShanghai’s case is the owner’s megalomania.
David Netherwood is MA student and Mike Bastin is PhD student at the School of Contemporary Chinese Studies, University of Nottingham.
Opinions expressed in the CPI blog do not represent the views of the China Policy Institute or the School of Contemporary Chinese Studies at the University of Nottingham. They are the personal views of the bloggers/authors.