Didier Drogba rode into China with hopes of changing Chinese football. “I think I have a little bit of experience — I come here to share that experience and some knowledge,” he said back in July.
Given the chance on a different team, he might have succeeded, and we might be writing a different story. But in Shanghai, under a bullheaded chairman who, at one time, threatened to pull his investment in FC Shenhua, Drogba’s time in China has been nothing short of disappointing.
And now he’s gone.
Drogba confirmed on Monday that he’s leaving for Turkey, where his new club, Galatasaray, has a spot in the Champions League. Through a PR company, he announced, “I am looking forward to playing in the Champions League again, against the best clubs in Europe.”
His well-compensated Shanghai running mate, Nicolas Anelka, 33, is set to leave as well. Le Sulk is currently on loan with Juventus, and it’s highly unlikely he’ll return to Shanghai.
Shenhua’s third big off-season foreign acquisition, 33-year-old Joel Griffiths (formerly of Beijing Guo’an), left the club in December for Sydney FC. The Griffiths signing didn’t have a tenth of the buzz as Anelka’s and Drogba’s, but as I wrote here in March, “No one expects him to outscore a healthy Anelka over the course of the season, but I for one wouldn’t be surprised if he outplayed him.” Well, it turns out that in seven fewer appearances, Griffiths did outscore Anelka, five goals to three.
Meanwhile, rumors continue to swirl that FC Shenhua’s crazy chairman, Zhu Jun, may move the team out of the city. Via Shanghaiist:
As if that weren’t enough drama for Shenhua, rumors swirled late last month that team chairman Zhu Jun threatened to ditch Anelka, Drogba, and head coach Sergio Batista during a shareholders meeting. Insiders also say Zhu went as far as to claim he would move the club to another city.
James Griffiths (no relation to Joel), who keeps a good watch of his city’s team, points out that Shenhua would do much better to distribute its largesse to local players. He’s right. It takes more than a few big-name foreigners to build a successful team, and for the price of one Anelka or Drogba — who was the highest-paid player in Chinese Super League history at more than $300,000 a week — a squad could buy itself a very solid midfield.
And finally, the moment of truth: what difference did Drogba, Anelka, and Griffiths make in their brief season in Shanghai? A one-point improvement from the season before. One. Shenhua finished 8-8-14, ninth place in the 16-team CSL.
UPDATE, 1/30, 1:07 am:
— TencentSportsさん (@TencentSports) 2013年1月30日