Will Drogba join his former Chelsea team mate in the Chinese Super League?
There is a new wrinkle in Nicholas Anelka’s career which has seen many such wrinkles over the years. He has threatened to retire from his present club Shanghai Shenhua weeks after he was appointed player coach in response to the news that the club is now appointing Sergio Batista as manager.
Anelka was lured last year away from the Premier League after he slid down the pecking order with Fernando Torres and Daniel Sturridge above him. Shenhua is a club with deep, deep pockets with Anelka being paid over $300,000 a week which makes him the fifth richest player in the world. The arrival of Anelka was seen as a precursor to the eventual snaring of his Chelsea team mate and prize Didier Drogba who was not keen on playing second fiddle to Roman Abramovich’s desire to see Torres succeed. It was Torres’s continued struggle and a Chelsea squad that found goal getting a chore which led to Drogba finding himself back in favour.
Drogba then completed his journey after Chelsea’s Champions League win realized his biggest dream. It freed him off any obligation to stay back in the Premiership leaving him free to explore alternatives including his delayed move to join Anelka at Shenhua. However, there is a possibility he may not have Anelka as his team mate if the Frenchman makes good on his threat to leave Shenhua unless the Batista situation is resolved to his liking (Chelsea’s player activists rising to the fore again!). Anelka could potentially use Drogba as a trump card to strong arm the Chinese club. Either way Drogba lands up being coached by Anelka (a recipe for some locker room barnstormers between two strong personalities) or face time spent trying to convince a very unhappy team mate to stay.
Shenhua is owned by Zhu Jun, the CEO of The9, an online game developer and operator (they own the Chinese license to World of Warcraft). They trade on NASDAQ under the ticker NCTY. The longest running mystery is how long this company that most pundits have rated a fail can afford to prop up the gargantuan salary that it is paying Anelka ($14 m/ year) and potentially more for Drogba (at least another $14m/year) They lost that much on Q3 losses and another $20m in Q4. Net revenues declined with negative growth earnings and P/E ratios forecast for the next two years. In the last three years they have lost about $150m with 2008 the last year they made a profit (which barely covered Anelka’s salary).
The club finished in 11th place last season but the owner has made no bones he wants to overtake Ghuangzhou Evergrande at the top and spending beyond one’s means has not factored in yet. This looks like a house of cards, a Portsmouth on steroids, a collapse waiting to happen.
Drogba, a striker of undiminished potency as evinced by his Champions League form, would be advised to tread very carefully. He could spend his last productive years in legal wrangling off the pitch or he could continue to cement his legacy undisturbed in a more settled club or league.