Letters From Shanghai: Two presents. Anelka and Tigana.

By Andrew Crawford, writing from Shanghai. Andrew has written for The Independent and When Saturday Comes, while also writing for Wild East Football, the only English site covering Chinese football. He’ll be featuring “Letters from Shanghai” on AFR to help track the growth of the league, as well as the stars playing there.

This Christmas, fans of Shanghai Shenhua got two very exciting presents in the form of ex-Chelsea, Arsenal and Real Madrid striker, Nicholas Anelka and new manager Jean Tigana.

Sadly, Santa Claus was not involved in the arrival of our much-vaunted Gallic duo. Instead we have to ‘thank’ our much maligned, highly controversial chairman, Zhu Jan for sealing the deal but also a faceless benefactor for pulling the strings in the background and securing the funds.

Zhu is one of the Chinese Super League’s (CSL) da laoban’s (literally ‘big boss’), a group of business tycoons who have invested their money in a club and then proceed to run them with little awareness or interest in football itself.  Indeed, in the past few years, Zhu has picked himself in the starting line-up for preseason friendlies, made the club play its recent CFA Cup games four hours away in Anhui Province and sold on many of our best players without warning.

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Anelka is back in the show.

The Frenchman has returned to the Premier League where he will be playing for West Brom. Anelka has signed a one-year deal with the club, making them the sixth Premier League side he will have played for, with the Baggies having an option to extend the deal for another year.

West Brom will be Anelkas ELEVENTH side of his professional career.