Shanghai Shenhua club director Zhou Jun (left) poses with Nicolas Anelka, who will play for Shenhua next year.
After weeks of speculation, Shanghai Shenhua Football Club has officially confirmed that Chelsea frontman Nicolas Anelka is on his way to China on a two-year deal.
The former Arsenal, Liverpool and Real Madrid player thus becomes the biggest star name in the Chinese Super League.
Zhu Jun, chief investor of the club, posted a picture of Anelka holding a Shenhua jersey with Zhou Jun, the club director, on his weibo microblog. Zhu extended the striker a warm welcome.
The club posted the information on its official website at 8:17am that it had signed the deal with Chelsea for the French striker.
Anelka will be in Shanghai next month when the transfer window is officially open.
"Shanghai Shenhua and Chelsea have reached consensus that French striker Nicolas Anelka will officially join Shanghai Shenhua in January 2012 after the winter transfer window opens," said the statement on the club's website.
Chelsea also confirmed in a statement that it had "agreed terms for the permanent transfer of Nicolas Anelka in the January transfer window."
Anelka will continue to wear No.39 in the Chinese Super League, Zhou had said earlier.
The CSL season kicks off in March.
Although the finer details of the contract and Anelka's salary have not been revealed, the 32-year-old striker should be earning more than he did at Chelsea, according to Ma Yue, the assistant spokesman of Shenhua.
"I cannot confirm the rumors about Anelka's salary at the moment. But one thing is for sure that his yearly income should be more than what he earned in Chelsea which was 5.8 million euros (US$7.7 million)," Ma told Shanghai Daily yesterday.
Besides playing for Shenhua, the contract also stipulates Anelka to promote The9.com, a website for online games, and which is owned by Zhu's company, Ma said.
The news of Anelka's signing was a hot topic on Weibo.com, with nearly one million posts recorded in couple of hours.
"How would Hongkou (stadium) be if Drogba, Guti and Raul followed Anelka?," wondered Wang Zijun. "Every weekend will be a carnival."
Another posted: "Here comes Anelka. Who can defend him?"
But there were also a few dissenting voices. "Come on, buy more stars like Maldini, Carlos and Beckham and let the Super League become the first choice of the overage players during the financial crisis," wrote a netizen named Nightyelf.
Shenhua also said Anelka's signing was just the beginning of other big-name transfers.
"We need a good center back to secure our defense and a good midfielder to pass the ball to Anelka," Ma said. "The team should not depend on Anelka alone."
Rumors have linked Shenhua with other targets, namely, Didier Drogba and former Real Madrid player Guti. The rumors have not been denied by the club.
"We don't want to talk too much before signing any players because if we fail, people will think that we were just hyping ourselves," Ma said. "There are other Chinese clubs in the fray."
The Anelka deal follows Guangzhou Evergrande's July signing of Argentine midfielder Dario Conca, whose US$10 million deal made him China's most expensive player.
The 28-year-old player later proved his value in the league and helped the southern China team to win the championship title.
Shenhua ticket sales are likely to rise by at least 20 percent with the arrival of Anelka. An online poll at Sina.com showed that more than 63 percent of the 175,006 fans believed that Anelka will be the top striker in the league.
Shenhua won the league twice - 1995 and 2003. It finished last season in the 11th place.
Date of birth: March 14 1979
Height: 185 centimeters
1996--1997 Paris Saint-Germain
1999--2000 Real Madrid
2000--2002 Paris Saint-Germain
2002 Liverpool (loan)
2002--2005 Manchester City
2006--2008 Bolton Wanderers
1998--2010 69 appearances with 14 goals.