22nd September, 2012
Former Chelsea star Didier Drogba has said he hopes to stay with Chinese club Shanghai Shenhua despite questions over his future, as reports said its home crowds had jumped 30 percent since he joined.
The Ivory Coast striker joined Shenhua in July, just weeks after scoring the winning penalty for Chelsea in the European Champions League final, for a reported $300,000-plus a week, making him the highest-paid player in China.
Attendances have swelled to around 20,000 people for home games when he plays from 15,000 previously, the Oriental Morning Post said Friday, quoting a club official.
But Shenhua chief investor Zhu Jun has reportedly threatened to withhold salaries of foreign players — including former Chelsea and France striker Nicolas Anelka — unless he is granted majority control of the club.
In his first public comments since the shareholder dispute erupted, Drogba told the BBC he is still being paid and hopes to fulfill his two-and-a-half-year contract.
“I am really happy here, so I have no reason to leave. I want to stay here as long as I can — win some trophies with my team and make our fans very happy,” he said, according to a video posted on the BBC website on Friday.
But he also referred to unspecified difficulties.
“It’s difficult at the moment but I know that there’s hope and I believe,” Drogba said.
He played down media reports of chaos at Shenhua, who sacked French head coach Jean Tigana shortly after the season started, briefly named Anelka as player-coach and then brought in former Argentina manager Sergio Batista.
“That’s part of the game, you know. A manager comes, if he doesn’t get results, they change. Football is universal. It’s the same thing that happens everywhere in the world,” he said.
But he did express a longing for the English Premiership.
“I miss the Premier League because it’s the best league in the world but really I don’t regret my choice,” he said.
Drogba — dubbed “Devil Beast” by fans — started for Shenhua in a match last week and scored their final goal in a 3-0 win, but the club remains ninth in the 16-team Chinese Super League.