Former Chelsea striker Didier Drogba arrived in China on Saturday, saying his move to Shanghai Shenhua was not motivated by money despite reportedly becoming the highest-paid player in the country.
“It would have been easier for me to stay in Europe, but I chose China,” Drogba said. “Money is not the most important. I am here for a whole new experience.”
Drogba said he would not be winding down toward retirement in China but eager to show his best.
“I am here to win matches and be the champion. I am not here to retire,” said the 34-year-old Ivory Coast International player, who played a key role in Chelsea’s winning last season’s European Champions League final.
Online video posted by Shanghai Shenhua show the star was welcomed at the Shanghai airport by chanting fans as he arrived to take up a two-year contract.
Drogba joins his former Chelsea strike partner Nicolas Anelka at Shenhua amid an influx of big-money talent to the Chinese league.
While the powerful forward had offers from other clubs, he was won over when Shenhua club owner Zhu Jun visited his home country.
“I was moved by them,” Drogba said of Shenhua’s high-level officials. “They are very ambitious, and that’s a tremendous challenge.”
Zhu is an online gambling magnate whose fortune has already facilitated the hiring of former Argentina coach Sergio Batista and Anelka.
The club has not revealed the details of Drogba’s contract, although local media reported the club was willing to pay as much as $15 million per year.
Shangahi sits in 13th place in the 16-team Chinese Super League, 20 points behind leader Guangzhou Evergrande, which itself broke the Chinese transfer spending record to sign Argentine playmaker Dario Conca for $10 million from Fluminense.
Chinese football has long been dogged by mismanagement and corruption, with the level of performance trailing well behind that of neighbors South Korea and Japan. But rapidly escalating salaries are beginning to attract big-name players while authorities have ramped up measures to stamp out match fixing.