Drogba says 'Howzit my China' to Shenhua
BEIJING - One month after sealing Chelsea's victory in the European Champions League final, Didier Drogba signed with Shanghai Shenhua on a two-year contract that will reportedly make him China's highest-paid player.
Shanghai confirmed the signing yesterday, and Drogba said on his website he will join the Chinese Super League team in the country's financial hub next month.
No details were given on Shanghai's offer, though local media reported the club was willing to pay as much as $15m (R124m) a year.
"I studied all the offers I've received in recent weeks and I feel that going to Shanghai Shenhua is the right direction for me now," Drogba said in his online statement.
"I'm looking forward to this new challenge, to discover a new culture and I'm very enthusiastic about the development of the Chinese football league."
On its website adorned with pictures of Drogba against a background of Shanghai skyscrapers, the club lauded the 34-year-old striker as the most dominant player ever to join a CSL team.
"You can see from the online response, the fans are crazy about him," Shanghai spokesman Ma Yue told The Associated Press.
"There has never been a foreign player who has stirred up such a reaction in China. It means a lot to Chinese football and will be of immense help in spreading the CSL brand."
The announcement comes days after a reported visit to Drogba's native Ivory Coast by Shanghai's owner, Zhu Jun, an online gaming magnate whose fortune has already facilitated the hiring of former Argentina coach Sergio Batista and another former Chelsea player, Nicolas Anelka.
On his Twitter feed, Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand said he looked forward to playing against Drogba when they travel to Shanghai on July 25.
Drogba's move to Shanghai had been speculated on for months. He was also approached by Al Wasl of the United Arab Emirates, coached by Diego Maradona, but their bid was believed to be less than Shanghai's.
Shangahi sit in 12th place in the 16-team Chinese Super League, 15 points behind leaders Guangzhou Evergrande.