Shanghai Shenhua hire ex-Argentina manager Sergio Batista

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Ex-Argentina manager Sergio Batista said Chelsea’s Didier Drogba could soon join him at Shanghai Shenhua as he was unveiled as Chinese football’s latest star acquisition on Wednesday.

Batista indicated Drogba, who has already announced his departure from the European champions, could arrive within weeks at the Chinese Super League club, where he would link up with former Chelsea team-mate Nicolas Anelka.

“The people from the club are doing the best things to get Drogba here,” Batista told journalists through a translator, adding the Ivorian striker could soon be a Shenhua player “if everything is okay”.

“I think every coach in the world wants to get Drogba on the team and I hope everything is okay. Anelka too,” he said.

Batista, who lifted the 1986 World Cup as a player and led Argentina to Olympic gold in 2008, takes the job vacated by Frenchman Jean Tigana, who was sacked in April after a weak start to his first season in charge.

He joins World Cup-winning coach Marcello Lippi, who arrived at Guangzhou Evergrande two weeks ago, in the ever-growing ranks of big names in the Chinese Super League, whose ambitious club-owners are on a recruitment spree.

French striker Anelka, who became the league’s most famous signing in December, had reportedly opposed Batista’s appointment after he was named as player-coach following Tigana’s ousting.

But Batista, 49, played down speculation of a rift and said he was hoping for a strong contribution from the much-travelled star — although final decisions would rest with the coach.

“It’s another moment. He’s a player. I’m open to hear Anelka and all the players on the team speak about what’s happening on the field. Obviously, the final decision is from the coach,” he said.

Batista added: “Anelka can give to all the players his experience, on the field and off the field.

“I don’t want Anelka to play only to score goals. He is one of the best players in the world, but I want to keep him back on the field to play with his partners on the team.”

Shenhua officials said they hoped Batista’s South American approach could boost their team, now lying ninth in the 16th-club league.

They said Batista has signed a six-month contract, taking him through the rest of the season, with an option for another year. His salary was not revealed.

He will coach his first league match on June 16 against Changchun Yatai, now just ahead of Shenhua in the table. Batista is accompanied by two long-serving assistants, Alberto Osvaldo Rodriguez and Alejandro Daniel Tocalli.

Drogba, 34, departs Chelsea after a match-winning performance in this month’s Champions League final and as one of the English Premier League’s most feared strikers.

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