Didier Drogba was given a hero’s welcome as he arrived in China on Saturday to start a two-and-a-half-year contract that is expected to make him one of football’s highest-paid players.
Hundreds of fans, many clad in “Drogba 11” shirts, greeted the former Chelsea star at Shanghai’s Pudong airport, some carrying flowers, others brandishing his name in English on placards and many jostling to touch him.
“What I experienced at the airport this morning was unbelievable. Even when I was at Chelsea I never experienced anything like this,” the 34-year-old told reporters at a press conference to launch his career with Shanghai Shenhua.
The Ivory Coast striker sealed a deal that Chinese and British media have said is worth 200,000 pounds ($314,000) a week, making him the highest-paid player in China and in the top bracket globally.
But he insisted money was not the reason he had moved to a side languishing near the bottom of China's Super League, just weeks after he scored the penalty that won Chelsea the European Champions League.
“China is a big sports country and it is a big challenge. For me it would have been easy to go to another team in Europe but I chose China because of the challenge,” he said.
“The money is not the most important, everybody knows that I give a lot of money to my foundation... I didn’t come to China with the idea of making a lot of money.”