Chelsea striker Nicolas Anelka has agreed to join Shanghai Shenhua, the club said today in a major coup for Chinese football. The former Arsenal and Real Madrid star will be the biggest name to appear in China's Super League so far.
"We have basically agreed on the details of the contract, but there are small details that we still need to confirm tonight," club spokesman Ma Yue told AFP. He added that the 32-year-old Frenchman would start playing for the team in January if all the fine details were ironed out, but was unable to reveal any details of the deal, adding a formal announcement would be made tomorrow.
In July, Argentine midfielder Dario Conca became China's most expensive signing -- and reportedly, one of the world's best paid players -- when he inked a $10m deal with Guangzhou Evergrande.
The Chinese champions, who are bankrolled by a leading property company and were relegated two seasons ago for match-fixing, have also splashed out $7.5m on Brazilian forwards Cleo and Muriqui, last season's top scorer. China's foreign legion also includes Henan Construction's Leandro Netto de Macedo and Shanghai's Luis Salmeron, while Romanian Christian Danalache and Serb Aleksander Jevtic both play for Jiangsu Sainty.
Despite China's vast size and love of football, the national side have only reached one FIFA World Cup™ - in 2002, when they lost all their games without scoring once - while the domestic game has been plagued by scandals and violence.
Shanghai Shenua, 11th in the Chinese league last season, is the latest stop on Anelka's nomadic career, which has also taken in spells at Paris Saint Germain, Liverpool, Manchester City, Bolton Wanderers and Turkey's Fenerbahce.