SHANGHAI, China, September 21 – Chinese club Shanghai Shenhua are reaping the rewards after signing former Chelsea star Didier Drogba — with crowds at home games up 30 percent even as questions swirl over his future.
The Ivory Coast striker joined the club in mid-July, just weeks after scoring the winning goal in the European Champions League final, for a reported $300,000-plus a week, making him the highest-paid player in China.
Attendances have swelled to around 20,000 people for home games when he plays from 15,000 previously, the Oriental Morning Post said, quoting a club official.
The player — dubbed “Devil Beast” by fans — started for Shenhua last week and scored their final goal in a 3-0 win.
But despite his impact, a boardroom dispute could still see the departure of the club’s foreign players, whose contingent also includes former France international Nicolas Anelka.
Chief investor Zhu Jun, a flamboyant online gaming tycoon, has reportedly threatened to withhold the foreign players’ salaries he is bankrolling unless he is granted majority control.
Speaking at a fan event on Thursday, Drogba spoke of “difficulties” faced by the club but gave no details.
“Although we are now facing some difficulties, we will become stronger,” Drogba said, according to a transcript posted on government-backed media website Online Shanghai.