Nicolas Anelka did not leave Chelsea FC for Chinese soccer for one last paycheck. He revealed that his passion for local cultures and the chance to experience a new way of life were behind his decision to sign with Shanghai Shenhua, according to FIFA.com.
“I’ve always had fond feelings about Asia,” Anelka said. “I have been obsessed with the local cultures during my previous trips to the likes of Korea Republic, Japan, Malaysia, Thailand, Hong Kong and Macau. So I jumped at the chance when Shanghai came to me with an offer.”
The former French international left Chelsea in December — six months before his contract expired. He did so in order to join his new team in its preparations for the upcoming Chinese Super League campaign.
Anelka rejected offers to join clubs in Europe, North America and the Middle East. Instead, he chose the metropolis of Shanghai as the next stop in his career. He is excited to experience life in a city some compare to his hometown Paris, France.
“It is my first time to Shanghai but I know the city is known as the ‘Paris of the East’. Friends who have been there told me it is a magnificent city and I am looking forward to seeing it.”
The well-traveled 32-year-old has played for top clubs like Paris Saint-Germain, Arsenal, Real Madrid, Chelsea FC and Liverpool FC. He is arguably the most high-profile player to ever grace the C-League, but he knows that he alone cannot guide Shanghai to the championship.
“In football it is teamwork, not individual effort, that matters,” Anelka pointed out. “It is too premature to predict anything but I will do my best to acclimatise to Chinese football and help the team enjoy a great season.”
The 2012 Chinese Super League kicks off on March 10, and runs through November. There will be a fair bit of turmoil, as the government is investigating (and even prosecuting) some players, officials and referees for their alleged roles in a match-fixing scandal.