Shanghai – More than 300 fans gathered in Shanghai to welcome Ivory Coast striker Didier Drogba on his much-anticipated arrival on Saturday to play for Chinese Super League strugglers Shanghai Shenhua.
Drogba has signed a two-and-a-half-year contract with the big-spending club for a reported salary of $300,000 a week, ending weeks of speculation on his future after he announced his decision to leave Champions League winners Chelsea.
The 34-year old striker will join former Chelsea teammate Nicolas Anelka at the club struggling at the 13th spot in the 16-club Chinese Super League. Shanghai Shenhua is coached by former Argentina boss Sergio Batista.
The fans arrived in the early hours of the morning at the Shanghai Pudong International Airport, many dressed in the club's blue jersey bearing “Drogba 11”, and hope that the Drogba-Anelka strike force will change the club's fortune.
“I believe that with his arrival, our results will improve significantly, because he has a good rapport with Anelka,” 23-year-old Zhu Hongbo said.
“Also, we have brought in a midfield player in (Giovanni) Moreno. I think for the second half of the year, our results will improve and we can be in the top three.”
Drogba's arrival is the latest in a long list of high-profile names who have made the move to China in recent months. Italian World Cup winning coach Marcello Lippi is in charge of a Guangzhou Evergrande side packed full of skilful South American talent.
Drogba, who scored 157 times in 341 appearances for Chelsea making him the club's fourth all-time leading scorer, is the biggest catch of them all.
“I am very excited and very moved that such a great player can be here in Shanghai and join to play for Shanghai Shenhua. As a Shanghai Shenhua fan and a Shanghai resident, I feel very proud,” Roy Zhu, 27, said. – Reuters