Shanghai Shenhua say they plan to name a new head coach, just weeks after the big-spending Chinese soccer club appointed mercurial French striker Nicolas Anelka as player-coach.
There was no immediate comment from Shenhua about British reports that Anelka’s former teammate Didier Drogba, fresh from his Champion’s League triumph with Chelsea, is set to join them.
Former Argentina manager Sergio Daniel Batista has been tipped for the coach’s job and Shenhua’s star player Anelka is said to be threatening to quit the club in response, according to reports.
“The club has actively sought a head coach candidate, and is looking for him to take up the post and assume command soon,” the Chinese club said in a statement posted on its microblog late on Monday.
The coming of a new head coach has sparked a public outburst by the striker, who told local media that he was considering leaving.
Anelka is serving dual roles for Shenhua, although the club also named former Democratic Republic of the Congo national manager Jean-Florent Ikwange Ibenge as acting head coach after sacking Frenchman Jean Tigana last month.
The Shenhua statement added the club “hopes he [Anelka] will help the new coaching group to quickly become acquainted with the state of the team without delay.”
The Shanghai Daily said Shenhua were close to signing Batista, who led Argentina to the gold medal at the Beijing Olympics in 2008.
Speaking in an interview with the Xinmin Evening News published on Monday, Anelka criticized a lack of support from the club and said he would find it difficult to accept someone taking over his coaching duties.
“If there is still no one to support me and [they] continue to play little tricks behind my back ... then I will quickly decide whether or not to retire,” he said, in comments published by the newspaper in Chinese.
Anelka, the most high-profile foreign player to sign for a Chinese team, joined Shenhua in January on a two-year contract for a reported salary of 234,000 euros (US$307,000) a week.
Shenhua could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Drogba has been widely rumored to be quitting Chelsea for Shenhua to join Anelka, his former teammate at the London club.
Drogba has told his Chelsea colleagues that he is leaving the new Champions League winners, France Football said on Monday, despite his key role in Saturday’s triumph over Bayern Munich.