Drogba Joins Anelka at Chinese Soccer Team Shanghai Shenhua

Didier Drogba, who capped an eight-year stint with Chelsea by scoring the winning penalty in the Champions League final, will join Chinese Super League soccer team Shanghai Shenhua.

Drogba, 34, signed a 2 1/2-year contract, according to a statement posted to his personal website today, which didn’t give salary details. Drogba, who scored 157 goals in 341 appearances for Chelsea, will join the Chinese club in July.

“I have studied all the offers that I received during the last weeks and I have the feeling that going to Shanghai Shenhua is the right way for me to go now,” the Ivory Coast striker said in the statement. “I hope to be able to help promote Chinese football everywhere around the world and moreover improve the links between China and Africa.”

Drogba, who becomes a free agent at the end of June, will join former Chelsea teammate Nicolas Anelka in Shanghai as China’s elite league starts to attract top talent following a government campaign against corruption, match-fixing and mismanagement.

Shenhua, owned by billionaire Zhu Jun, chairman of Chinese online game operator and developer The9 Ltd., hired former Argentina national team manager Sergio Batista as head coach until the end of the season. Anelka moved to Shenhua in January with an annual wage of 10.6 million euros ($13.4 million).

The Shanghai-based Xinmin Evening News reported June 17 that Drogba would be paid 12 million euros a year. Team spokesman Ma Yue declined to comment when contacted today, saying that Drogba’s salary was confidential.

Marcello Lippi

Defending Super League champion Guangzhou Evergrande hired Italy’s 2006 World Cup-winning coach Marcello Lippi on a 2 1/2-year contract May 17 and also paid German champion Borussia Dortmund 8.5 million euros to acquire Paraguayan striker Lucas Barrios. Evergrande last year signed Dario Leonardo Conca, the Argentine named the best soccer player in Brazil for two consecutive years, for $10 million.

Drogba left Chelsea as the club’s fourth-highest scorer, having helped the London team win its first European Cup title. His 88th-minute header tied the May 19 final at Munich’s Allianz Arena at 1-1 before he struck the decisive penalty in a 4-3 shootout win after extra time.

After joining from Marseille in July 2004, Drogba won Premier League titles in his first two seasons. Chelsea also won the English league in 2010, and the F.A. Cup four times as Drogba scored in each final. He also helped secure two League Cup victories and his 34 goals in European competition is a Chelsea record.

Drogba will join a club that’s 12th in the 16-team Chinese Super League through 13 matches following a 2-0 loss at Changchun Yatai June 16. The bottom two clubs at the end of the 30-game season in November will be relegated into the first division.

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