Former Chelsea star Didier Drogba returned to his old club on Tuesday amid mounting speculation the Ivorian could make a swift return to the Barclays Premier League.
Drogba’s visit to Chelsea’s Cobham training ground came after it emerged he and former Blues team-mate Nicolas Anelka could be sold by China’s Shanghai Shenhua due to an escalating equity stake row among shareholders.
Chairman Zhu Jun, who holds a 28.5 per cent stake, would only pay his share of the club’s daily costs if his demands for greater control were not met.
Zhu currently controls the club along with five state-owned enterprises after becoming a shareholder in 2007.
The agreement was that if he invested £15million over two years, his stake would increase to more than 70 per cent.
Local media say Zhu has ploughed more than £60m into the club in the past five-and-a-half years, while the state-owned companies had spent nothing. The transfer of shares stalled in 2009 and again last year.
‘It is annoying and has had a bad effect on many of our tasks,’ a club official said. ‘The biggest problem is that the operation and financing work of the club cannot be carried out normally.
‘The equity stakes issue has become the biggest bottleneck for the development of Shenhua.’
If unresolved, Zhu, who has been signing all the cheques, could decide to cough up just 28.5 per cent of the club’s expenditure, potentially affecting player salaries.
Colombian Giovanni Moreno missed the match against Shandong Luneng at the weekend amid speculation Shenhua had fallen short on his transfer fee with Argentina’s Racing Club.
The futures of Drogba and Anelka could be in the balance if Shenhua fail to make their salary payments. Both earn close to £250,000 a week.
Despite investing heavily in big-name foreign players, Shenhua sit 10th in the 16-team Chinese Super League on 27 points from 23 matches. Leaders Guangzhou Evergrande are on 47 points.
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