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A file photo taken June 2, 2007 shows France’s forward Nicolas Anelka jubilating after scoring during the Euro 2008 qualification football match against Ukraine at the Stade de France in Saint-Denis near Paris.
Shanghai: Shanghai Shenhua are hoping new signing Nicolas Anelka can revolutionise Chinese football, but he will first have to find his feet in a country where foreign players have struggled to settle.
The former Chelsea striker - the Chinese league’s most high-profile signing to date - follows in the footsteps of a slew of foreign imports to China including Paul Gascoigne, Hamilton Ricard, Carsten Jacker and Paul Rideout.
But few have lasted more than a few seasons. Some have not even made it through one - New Zealand and Gold Coast striker Shane Smeltz lasted just a day before deciding the northern industrial city of Jinan and its team, Shandong Luneng, were not for him.
“I like the mentality in China and in Asia. I had other offers, but that is why I chose to come here,” Anelka told journalists at a packed news conference on Thursday. “Chinese football is very new for me, I have not yet been able to assess it because I haven’t played any Chinese teams. I hope that I can give some positive ideas to the other players.”
Anelka -- who is reportedly earning up to 234,000 euros ($307,000) a week at Shanghai Shenhua -- does not have long to acclimatise with the start of the Chinese Super League less than a month away.
Ireland’s Don O’Riordan, head coach of Chinese second division side Beijing Baxy’s women’s team, says the Frenchman’s status as a top professional will quickly rub off on his new team-mates.
“For the Chinese players at Shanghai to get the opportunity to train and play with someone like Anelka who has been coached by some of the top coaches in world football is a fantastic chance,” says O’Riordan, who played for Preston, Grimsby and Carlisle.