SHANGHAI, China, December 17 – Former Chelsea striker Nicolas Anelka is in talks to terminate his contract with his current Chinese side Shanghai Shenhua, the club said Monday, amid reports he may sign for Queens Park Rangers.
“The discussion is between the club and himself, I don’t know about the specific details,” Shanghai Shenhua spokesman Ma Yue said. “But so far we haven’t got the final result.”
According to the sports website of leading Internet portal Sina.com, Anelka has agreed to forgo the final year of his contract, worth $7 million, as long as Shanghai allow him to leave on a free transfer.
The report said the former Arsenal, Real Madrid, Manchester City, Bolton and Chelsea player wants to return to the Premiership by signing with Queens Park Rangers.
Anelka, who has 69 caps for France, made headlines when he signed with Shanghai at the beginning of last season, becoming China’s first direct import from the English Premier League.
But his presence failed to inspire the team and he scored only three goals during the season, with Shanghai finishing ninth in the 16-team league.
As the side struggled, Shanghai brought in Anelka’s former Chelsea team-mate Didier Drogba, making the team one of the highest paid in the Super League.
The 34-year-old Drogba signed a two-and-a-half-year deal with Shanghai in July but the Ivory Coast striker has also been reported to be reconsidering his options after the disappointing season.
Shanghai Shenhua, bankrolled by colourful video-game mogul Zhu Jun, has been a hotbed of strife during the season with players complaining about unpaid wages amidst highly publicised management turmoil.
After taking on Anelka, the club promptly signed experienced French manager Jean Tigana, but sacked him early on after a string of losses.
Anelka was then named player-coach until Argentine coach Sergio Batista was brought in despite objections from the Frenchman, nicknamed “Le Sulk” for his surly demeanour.
Anelka himself was shuffled around between defensive midfield, up front, on the wing and in his favoured “second striker” position in a baffling array of tactical approaches.
The 33-year-old has said the season was the biggest challenge of his career, as he tried to stop the rot eating away at the team and mould an inexperienced group of players into a side capable of winning the increasingly competitive Chinese Super League.
“The team is very young and, apart from the foreign recruits, lacks experience,” Anelka, who rarely gives interviews, told France’s Le Journal du Dimanche after Tigana was sacked. “We’re starting from zero, or near enough.
“I adapt, have discussions with developing players, and give them my experience. I had my first team talk (last week). I speak in English, the club translator explains my instructions in Chinese.”