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Yin Yang Contracts Sour Drogba's China Adventure


By Zhu Chong (朱冲)  
Issue 607, Feb 18, 2013
Lifestyle, page 55
Translated by Zhu Na
Original article: [Chinese]

It didn't take long for high-profile international football stars Nicolas Anelka and Didier Drogba to come to the conclusion that the Chinese Super League (CSL) was not the place for them.

Last month Italian team Juventus announced that they had signed Anelka, while almost at the same time Turkish club Galatasaray also officially announced that Drogba had formally joined the team.

Anelka's contract with the Chinese team Shanghai Shenhua had already expired but the club is now fighting to prevent Drogba from joining the Turkish team.

The team released an official statement immediately after it heard about the Galatasaray announcement, "... currently, Drogba is still a player of Shanghai Shenhua Club, the contract signed between both parties are still within the validity period."

Shanghai Shenhua also said that they had presented evidence to the sport's governing body, the International Federation of Association Football (FIFA), to back its claims.

Despite these efforts, it seems that the Shanghai club understands that since Drogba is determined to leave, they can't force him to stay.

A Shattered Dream

Shenhua signed the two big names last year to great fanfare, stating at the time that they were "proud that Chinese football had won world recognition."

But this expensive adventure ended a lot sooner than the club expected.

From the very beginning there were signs that the strategy of relying on big-name foreign stars might not work out for the club.

Anelka's performance left many disappointed - the striker only managed three goals and six assists in 22 appearances for the club. Drogba's performance was slightly better, he scored eight goals from 11 appearances.

Despite the expensive signings, the club failed to peform and ended the season in 9th place on the league table.

Because the players weren't living up to expectations, after a short honeymoon period, tensions started to emerge.

For their part, despite getting towards the end of their playing careers, both players were unwilling to leave the center stage of world football. In addition, the distance from their homes and various cultural barriers also made it hard for them to adapt.

However, it seems the trigger that led to Drogba's decision to leave the club is that he hadn't been paid on time.

As early as the end of last August, there were reports saying that Shenhua's payments to foreign players were in arrears. Similar reports also emerged at the end of last year.

According to reports, a 3 million Euro payment which was due at the end of November was not paid and Drogba was very upset about this and decided to terminate his contact with Shenhua.

Shenhua submitted copies of their payroll and their contract with the Ivory Coast player to both the Chinese Football Association (CFA) and FIFA. Based on this information, the CFA ruled that Shenhua hadn't violated any rules and refused to issue a certificate of international transfer to Drogba.

But there might be a bit more to the situation than what Shenhua has shared with the CFA.

The Murky World of Dual Contracts

For an better understanding of how Drogba was to be paid, we can take a look at a recent court case involving another Shanghai Shenhua player.

In 2009, Chinese player Sun Ji (孙吉) signed two contracts when he joined Shenhua, one was a two year contract with the club, according to this contract, the club agreed to pay Sun 13,200 yuan a month. The other contract was signed with U. City Limited, a Hong Kong company. This company agreed to pay Sun training subsidies of 700,000 yuan and an additional 195,000 yuan in appearance fees for 2009.

This kind of dual contract is common in Chinese football and is often referred to as the "Yin Yang contract" (阴阳合同). 

Sun Ji took Shanghai Shenhua to court for not paying what he was owed. A court rejected Sun Ji's request to require the club to pay him a total of 1.5 million yuan. On Jan 24, Shanghai's No. 1 Intermediate People's Court also rejected Sun's appeal of the original verdict noting that Sun should ask for payment from U. City Limited not Shenhua Club.

Although the details relating to Drogba's contract are not very clear, it's likely that a similar dual contract arrangement was entered into. In the contract signed with the club which was submitted to the CFA the salary figure is likely to be quite small. Therefore, Shenhua can argue that they don't owe Drogba any money.

But what about the other contract involving huge sums of money?

It's possible that it was signed with Nine Towns Internet Technology Group Company Limited (九城公司). The chairman of Nine Town's board is Zhu Jun (朱骏), the largest investor in Shenhua and Drogba signed on to be the spokesperson for the company's computer games division for a fee of 3.1 million Euro a year.

So, if Drogba's people are saying he is owed money, it's likely that it's not the money owed on the official club contract but the secondary contract signed with Nine Towns.

This might make it hard for Drogba as the CFA only recognizes the one official contract that the club has lodged with them.

Zhu Jun denied that Shenhua owed Drogba wages and said that Shenhua had always paid Drogba in accordance with the contract.

Zhu Jun is also said to have told the FA that he is not deliberately trying to make things difficult for Drogba and that he's simply trying to handle the issue in accordance with the rules and regulations.

However, rules should also include the international standards that apply to contracts and management.


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