Shanghai Shenhua fans were not surprised to see star strikers Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka end their Chinese odyssey after just one season, accepting that the high-profile duo had a desire to play at a higher level.
Cote d'Ivoire international Drogba concluded his brief spell in the Chinese Super League (CSL) when he agreed to an 18-month contract with Turkish club Galatasaray on Monday, after Anelka had joined Italian giants Juventus on loan two days earlier.
Both strikers appeared content to opt for the lure of European Champions League soccer over the reported $300,000 per week salaries in China.
"You know Chinese soccer is on the second or third level in Asia. They are not on the same level. So Anelka needs to play in a better team. So I don't feel any shock about his leaving," 31-year-old Shenhua fan Gu Zhonghua told Reuters.
Drogba said the lure of playing in the Champions League proved too strong.
Although he scored eight goals in his 11 appearances, he had been courting an escape route out of China and failed with an appeal to FIFA (Federation Internationale de Football Association) to go on loan before the January transfer window opened.
"There are a lot of problems with Shenhua. Drogba is still at his peak. He can play in the European Champions League. I would feel good to see him (in) Europe," 26-year-old fan Zhang Yiming said.
Some of those problems were reportedly unpaid wages.
Internet tycoon owner Zhu Jun, who used Anelka to promote his online game business, blamed the problems on shareholders reneging on deals while many questioned his commitment as the club finished ninth in the 16-team league.
"Shenhua now becomes a big joke," one netizen posted, while another commented, "Anelka is gone! So is Drogba! Shenhua, what are you doing! It is such a shame for our Chinese people!"
Reuters - Global Times