Shanghai Shenhua manager Sergio Batista has backed star signing Didier Drogba to help turn their season around.
The former Argentina coach said Drogba, together with Nicolas Anelka and incoming Colombian recruit Giovanni Moreno, will revitalise the club after a poor start to their Chinese Super League campaign with just three wins in 13 games. Ivorian striker Drogba, 34, was announced as Shenhua’s latest acquisition on Wednesday, becoming the most high-profile player yet to join the increasingly wealthy Chinese league.
“The team is now in good shape. When the three players are all here, they can bring experience to the rest of the team. They will make perfection even more perfect,” Batista told journalists. “They are all world-renowned football stars. I think they will bring good experience to the team.”
Batista has replaced French coach Jean Tigana, who was sacked in April – just seven games after taking charge. The Argentine is hoping to drag Shenhua, currently 12th, to a top-three finish and cup victory this season. “Our goal remains unchanged, top three in the league, and winning the CFA (Chinese Football Association) Cup. But it is not easy to reach this goal. We will fight for it as hard as we can.”
He will need Drogba to make a better start than Anelka, who arrived with much fanfare in January but has scored just two goals in nine appearances after being deployed in a variety of positions, including defensive midfield. The Frenchman, briefly named player-coach after Tigana’s sacking, was also forced into a public apology after he told Chinese media he was ready to quit the club over Batista’s appointment.
In an interview with a Chinese newspaper, Anelka welcomed the signing of Drogba, whose image adorned the Shenhua website’s – with no other players in sight. “I played with him at Chelsea for four years. I know what it is like to play together with him,” the Oriential Sports Daily quoted Anelka as saying.
Anelka missed Saturday’s loss to Changchun Yatai through illness, Batista said. “I talked with Anelka about last week’s match. He was not feeling well so he didn’t attend the match. But he had strong desire in training,” said the coach. “Hopefully he will attend the match on Sunday. Hopefully, he can return to the team as early as possible.”
Batista said he hoped for Drogba’s arrival “the faster the better”, and suggested the feared target-man could start playing as soon as he joins up with the team at the start of next month, as long as he is fit.
“Now I’m looking forward to him being in good physical shape, but I am also worried that he might not be fully fit,” Batista said. “When we meet, as long as he has recovered his fitness, we will let him play. He will join in the team once he arrives in Shanghai, but everything will depend on the actual situation.”
Batista added that attacking midfielder Moreno, 25, “has some problem with his club” but is expected to arrive in the coming days.