Ivorian football star Didier Drogba says he’s looking forward to a new challenge and experiencing a new culture in China. The 34-year-old Drogba has signed a two-year contract with Shanghai Shenhua club that will reportedly make him China’s highest-paid player. Financial terms were not announced, but local Chinese news reports say the two-time African Footballer of the Year could make as much as $15 million per year.
In Shanghai, Drogba will be reunited with former Chelsea teammate Nicolas Anelka. Drogba played a heroic role last month in Chelsea winning its first UEFA Champions League title. He scored the equalizer in the 88th minute against host Bayern Munich, to take Chelsea into extra time and then a penalty kick shootout. And then the muscular striker scored the winning penalty kick in Chelsea’s 4-3 penalty shootout victory. During his eight years with Chelsea, Drogba delivered 157 goals, and Shanghai fans are hoping he’ll continue his scoring prowess in the Chinese Super League.
“The fans are crazy about him,” Shanghai club spokesman Ma Yue told the Associated Press. “There has never been a foreign player who has stirred up such a reaction in China. It means a lot to Chinese football and will be of immense help in spreading the CSL brand.” For his part, Drogba says he hopes to promote Chinese football around the world and further improve the links between China and Africa.
The Chinese are huge investors in Africa and they have built football stadiums all across the continent, including more than a half dozen for the last three Nations Cups, Africa’s premier soccer event.