It will have come as quite a shock to many football fans to see Nicolas Anelka make the bizarre move to Chinese side Shanghai Shenhua during the latest January transfer window.
This move seemed particularly odd as there we options for Anelka to remain in Europe, in particular a return to his old side Paris Saint-Germain. What is even more strange is that Anelka, known by many as “le Sulk” due to his surly behaviour has taken on the role of player coach. The former French international must now work as the head of a five man coaching team to turn around the struggling club.
This occurred following the dismissal of Shanghai’s first team coach Jean Tigana. Now acting head coach Jean-Florent Ikwange has retained Anelka in his mixed role as striker and team coach. Anelka has made a positive start to his career in Chinese football including a debut goal. However, Anelka’s role may prove to be something more that coaching and playing. As such a large profile move, it may spark a increase move of older players finishing their careers in China. This has certainly been the case since David Beckham moved to America and many Chinese clubs are hoping the same will occur in the Chinese super league.
With Chinese teams spending around £300million, this explosion of money in the league will do much to attract foreign players. Anelka has been the biggest player to make this transition so far and has already confirmed his intentions to bring former team mate Didier Drogba to the Shanghai club, and also wishes to tempt former PSG team mate Selim Benachour with a lucrative deal to also see his career off in china. If Anelka is able to convince his former team mates to join him, Anelka may well be the starting catalyst for a strong future of foreign players in the Chinese super league.