Chelsea striker Nicolas Anelka to make Shanghai transfer
Nicolas Anelka's nomadic career took its most exotic turn today after it was confirmed he was leaving Chelsea for Shanghai Shenhua in the new year.
The 32-year-old agreed a two-year deal with the Chinese Super League club, becoming arguably the biggest footballing personality ever to ply his trade in the world's most populous nation.
He will earn a reported salary of £175,000 a week and unlike fading stars such as Paul Gascoigne, Ruben Sosa, Carsten Jancker and Jorg Albertz, who decamped to China in the early 2000s, Anelka is still arguably somewhere near his peak.
The former France striker had no shortage of suitors when it became apparent his Chelsea contract, which was set to expire at the end of the season, would not be renewed.
To say money played a significant part in his decision to join Shenhua would be stating the obvious, with Anelka seemingly not the sort to embark on a David Beckham-esque mission to transform the footballing fortunes of a far-flung empire.
But his arrival might help to do that anyway and will certainly provide a huge boost to a club who finished 11th out of 16 teams in the Super League last term.
Another possible incentive for Anelka to join is that Shenhua are trying to lure Jean Tigana - the former France midfielder and Fulham boss - to be their new manager.
It did not take long for Anelka's signing to be embraced by his soon-to-be team-mates, with captain Yu Tao writing on Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter: "It's impossible not to be excited by this - a warm welcome to our new team-mate!"
Goalkeeper Wang Dalei added: "Tell Anelka he made his new team-mates really proud!"
Shenhua will become Anelka's ninth club since he burst onto the scene at Arsenal during their 1997-98 double-winning campaign.
Never one to stay anywhere for long, the striker has racked up almost £87million in combined transfer fees - and who knows how many more millions in signing-on fees, wages and agents fees for his well-known entourage.
A stint at Real Madrid - where he won the Champions League - a return to Paris St Germain and a loan spell at Liverpool followed his Arsenal adventure before permanent moves to Manchester City, Fenerbahce and Bolton.
He became Avram Grant's first signing for Chelsea in January 2008 in a £15million deal, going on to miss the decisive penalty in the Champions League final defeat against Manchester United in Moscow.
However, he was a key part of last year's double-winning side under Carlo Ancelotti and scored 59 times in 184 games in total.
The arrival of Juan Mata and the return of Daniel Sturridge from a loan spell at Bolton saw him marginalised by new manager Andre Villas-Boas and he was banished from Chelsea's first team along with defender Alex after both submitted transfer requests.
Anelka's status as China's biggest ever footballing import may not last long if Shenhua or Super League rivals Dalian Aerbin succeed in their pursuit of Chelsea team-mate Didier Drogba.
Drogba, who has yet to agree a new deal with the Blues to replace the one that expires at the end of the season, has been offered a three-year contract worth more than £200,000 per week by Aerbin.
General manager Li Ming told Chinese media last week: "Money is not the problem.
"Drogba is still one of the most popular soccer stars in the world, though he will be 34 years old.
"We have talked a lot with Drogba's agent and promised to provide him with a three-year contract."
Aerbin were only formed in 2009 and have just been promoted to China's top division.
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