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Chelsea's Anelka to join Chinese club

By Paul Armstrong, CNN
December 12, 2011 -- Updated 1949 GMT (0349 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • English Premier League side Chelsea confirm Nicolas Anelka will move to China
  • Shanghai Shenhua earlier claimed to have signed Frenchman on a two-year deal
  • Images of the 32-year-old were splashed across the Shanghai team's official website
  • The striker has rarely featured for Chelsea this season under manager Andre Villas-Boas

Hong Kong (CNN) -- Chinese Super League club Shanghai Shenhua have pulled off an audacious transfer coup by signing former France international Nicolas Anelka from English team Chelsea.

Images of the striker were splashed across the Shanghai team's official website Monday, together with a statement saying the 32-year-old would be joining the club in January on a two-year contract.

The move was later confirmed by Chelsea, who signed Anelka for £15 million in 2008 but accepted his transfer request with his current deal to expire at the end of this season.

"This is not only good for Shenhua but also beneficial for Chinese football," club spokesperson Ma Yue told CNN.

"The joining of Anelka to Football Association Super League will promote the League's brand for sure."

No details were given about how much the contract was worth, but a club official denied reports that Anelka's weekly salary would be as high as £200,000 ($312,000).

Anelka has rarely featured for Chelsea this season under new manager Andre Villas-Boas, and was almost certain to leave Stamford Bridge during European football's January transfer window after asking to leave.

The Versailles-born player, who became a Muslim in 2004, has scored 59 goals in 184 games for the club.

This is not only good for Shenhua but also beneficial for Chinese football.
Ma Yue, club spokesperson

Having played for some of Europe's top teams, including Spain's Real Madrid and England's Arsenal and Liverpool, Anelka's transfers have so far totaled almost $133 million, making him one of the world's most expensive players in those terms.

However, his questionable attitude during his early career led to him being nicknamed "Le Sulk" at Arsenal and being banned for 45 days at Real after refusing to train.

In 2008, Anelka moved to Chelsea in a £15 million deal from Bolton, where he resurrected his career after a short spell in Turkey with Fenerbahce. He helped the London club win the domestic championship in 2009-10.

Anelka's international career came to a controversial halt during the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, when he was sent home in disgrace after clashing with coach Raymond Domenech. He was given an 18-match ban after refusing to apologize, but said he had already decided to retire from the national team.

Reports have also linked Shenhua with another veteran Chelsea striker, Didier Drogba -- a target of Chinese rivals Dalian Aerbin.

Meanwhile, Shenhua owner Zhu Jun said last week that former France international Jean Tigana will become the club's new coach, according to the Shanghai Daily website.

"Tigana should be in the city by the middle of this month. He had already made a one-year coaching plan for the team," Zhu said.

Shenhua finished 11th in the 16-team Chinese Super League this year, having been runners-up in 2005, 2006 and 2008.

CNN's Haolan Hong contributed to this report.

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