Shanghai spending will not work in short term
June 22 ~ For the second time in six months, Shanghai is about to go into meltdown following the news that Didier Drogba will be turning out in a Shanghai Shenhua shirt in the very near future. Drogba's contract will commit him to Shanghai for two-and-a-half years and will give him a salary of £9.7 million (£187,000 a week). His number 11 shirt will be waiting for him in the dressing room, as will his former Chelsea team-mate, Nicolas Anelka. After Drogba arrives in Shanghai to the same euphoric welcoming party that Anelka received a few months earlier, the hard work is really going to start. Shenhua are rubbish right now.
On the pitch, the players have looked toothless and uncoordinated; while off it they conspired to have manager Jean Tigana sacked after only five games in charge. A crippling injury crisis and a terrible run of results have dragged the club towards the foot of the table.
Any pre-season title aspirations look dead in the water. On paper, the expectations will be that Drogba can link up with Anelka and score the goals needed to climb the table, but the reality suggests it could work out quite differently.
For one thing, Anelka has been woeful since his arrival in Shanghai. His slump embodies the overall malaise that Shenhua are trying to escape from. Two goals and a number of niggly injuries represent poor value for money considering his rumoured weekly wage of £190,000. It remains to be seen how Anelka will react to no longer being the star attraction in the city.
Another blow to the idea that Shanghai’s expensively acquired duo can rediscover their Chelsea days is the complete absence of creativity in the middle of the pitch. When Drogba and Anelka were a Premier League double act (and this is going back two or three years, before Roman Abramovich was forcing Fernando Torres into the line-up), Frank Lampard and Florent Malouda were setting up the goals. In Shanghai, the cupboard is currently very bare.
Having tried to reinforce Shenhua’s midfield on the cheap, the club have been forced to watch as an earnest rabble of Chinese teenagers and journeymen from Eastern Europe constantly find themselves outclassed in the middle-third of the pitch and unable to fashion chances for Anelka.
However, things might be changing and the arrival of Drogba will hasten the sudden drive to make additions to the squad. After large crowds for the first few games, attendances dwindled once the locals realised the chance of seeing Anelka put the ball in the net were minimal.
The ever fickle Shanghainese populace will return once Shenhua’s big names start scoring goals and a list of rumoured midfield targets have duly appeared in the local papers as the club belatedly try to rescue the situation and the value of their investments.
The attempts to revive Shenhua’s fortunes will boost Chinese football as it looks to encourage more overseas arrivals. Moreover, Drogba’s first few games for Shenhua will be against major rivals Jiangsu Sainty, Beijing Guoan and Hangzhou Greentown. High television ratings are practically assured now that the two most well-known foreign imports in China will be on the same pitch.
Drogba’s signing will not help Shenhua win the league this season but his arrival should ensure that the club’s owners try to build a winning team to keep the crowds coming in. Too much money has been spent on Anelka and Drogba for Shenhua not to challenge for silverware and in the long run, this will make Drogba worth every penny. Andrew Crawford