It is not money, but the big challenge in an unfamiliar land that lured Didier Drogba to China, the Ivory Coast striker said yesterday.
More than 300 fans gathered at the Shanghai Pudong International Airport to welcome Drogba on his much-anticipated arrival to join Chinese Super League strugglers Shanghai Shenhua.
Drogba has signed a two-and-a-half-year contract with the big-spending club for a reported salary of US$300,000 a week, ending weeks of speculation on his future after he announced his decision to leave Champions League winners Chelsea.
“I decided to come here, because when the club and the president approached me, I looked at the project and it came with ambitious ideas, and he wants to ... help football develop in China,” Drogba told reporters after his unveiling.
“I know China is a great sports country, so for me it was also a big challenge, because it could have been easy for me to stay in Europe and go to another team, another big team,” he said.
“Really, I didn’t come here with the idea of making a lot of money. I come here because it is a completely different challenge from what I have seen in Europe before. I want people to make sure and to understand that I am here to win. I am not here to sit and relax,” he added.
Drogba’s arrival is the latest in a long list of high-profile names who have made the move to China in recent months.
Italian World Cup winning coach Marcello Lippi is in charge of a Guangzhou Evergrande side packed full of skilful South American talent.
Drogba, who scored 157 times in 341 appearances for Chelsea, making him the club’s fourth all-time leading scorer, is the biggest catch of them all.
The 34-year-old striker will join former Chelsea teammate Nicolas Anelka at the club struggling in 13th spot in the 16-club Chinese Super League.