NICOLAS Anelka will become the biggest signing in Chinese football history - and one of the highest-paid players in the world - when he completes his transfer to Shanghai Shenhua from Chelsea next month. The 32-year-old French international has agreed a two-year deal reportedly worth around GBP200,000-a-week ($AU310,000) after tax with the Super League club.
Anelka was placed on the transfer list by his current manager, Andre Villas-Boas, and exiled to Chelsea's reserves - along with Alex, the central defender also deemed surplus to requirements - after making clear his wish to depart Stamford Bridge earlier this month. A number of clubs from Russia, the United Arab Emirates and North America, most notably the new Major League Soccer franchise, Montreal Impact, had been monitoring his availability, but none has been able to match the terms on offer in Shanghai.
The former Arsenal, Bolton, Manchester City and Liverpool player is understood to have been placed in a similar salary bracket to Dario Conca, the unheralded Argentine who last summer joined Chinese champions Guangzhou Evergrande, by Shenhua's owner Zhu Jun, a gambling magnate once linked with a takeover of the Anfield side. "I could not believe how many zeros there were on the offer," said Conca, formerly with Fluminense, after he agreed a deal worth GBP10.6m ($AU16.4m) a year.
The intense competition between China's club owners is likely to mean Anelka is the first of a number of high-profile stars from European leagues targeted by the Chinese Super League. Guti, the former Real Madrid player, is thought to be one player under consideration, while both Shenhua and Dalian Aerbin have admitted their interest in Anelka's team-mate Didier Drogba.
Zhu Jun, Anelka's new employer, admitted he "got in touch [with Drogba] two weeks ago, and if he wants to come, we'd definitely welcome him." Dalian's general manager, Li Ming, last week confirmed his club have made an offer of around GBP200,000-a-week ($AU310,000) for three years to the Ivorian international.
"Money is not the problem," he said. "Drogba is still one of the most popular soccer stars in the world, though he will soon be 34 years old. We have talked a lot with Drogba's agent and promised him a three-year contract."