Former Chelsea FC striker DIDIER DROGBA said that he was "lured to China by a huge challenge in an unfamiliar land" and vowed to stay with the Shanghai Shenhua for the entirety of his two-and-a-half-year contract, according to Wang Zhenghua of the CHINA DAILY. Drogba arrived in Shanghai on Saturday morning and watched the game between his new side and Beijing Guo'an FC. Drogba said at a press conference, "Really, I didn't come here with the idea of making a lot of money. I came here because it is a completely different challenge from what I have seen in Europe." He added: "I looked at the project and it came with ambitious ideas and I want to help football develop in China. I know China is a great sports country, so for me it was also a big challenge because it could have been easy for me to stay in Europe and go to another team, another big team" (CHINA DAILY, 7/15).
HERO'S WELCOME: REUTERS' Royston Chan reported that more than 300 fans gathered at Shanghai airport to welcome Drogba on his "much-anticipated arrival" to join the Chinese Super League. Drogba's contract with the club is for a reported £193,000 ($300,000) a week. Drogba's arrival "is the latest in a long list of high-profile names" who have made the move to China in recent months (REUTERS, 7/14). The AP reported that Drogba said he would "not be winding down toward retirement in China but eager to show his best." Drogba said, "I am here to win matches and be the champion. I am not here to retire" (AP, 7/14). The BBC's John Sudworth wrote that Shenhua is a club "with an ambition that far outstrips its modest earnings." Drogba's reputed salary "is not far off the club's total revenue from ticket sales and advertising combined." Like other big spending Chinese clubs, "the maths add up only because of the big spending ways of the owners and the multi-billion-dollar companies they run" (BBC, 7/14).
CALL FOR HELP: In London, Tom Phillips reported that Drogba "immediately called for a couple of his Chelsea teammates to join him." Drogba said that he wanted to see JOHN TERRY and FRANK LAMPARD join him in Shanghai. Drogba said, "I need to speak to my president. Because I want them in my team" (TELEGRAPH, 7/14). In Shanghai, Ni Yinbin reported that "there has been speculation" that Drogba's ex-Chelsea teammate NICOLAS ANELKA will leave Shenhua "following his struggles in China." But Drogba "was confident" the Frenchman will stay. Drogba said, "About the rumors we can understand after all he came to a new environment with a different language. Today I read some newspaper saying he's waiting for me to come. Now I've come and I don't think he will leave" (SHANGHAI DAILY, 7/15).