Didier Drogba showed fans of Shanghai Shenhua that he’s lost none of his old magic, coming off the bench to provide a crucial assist in the 1-1 draw against Guangzhou R&F on Sunday.
The Ivorian international left Chelsea as a free agent at the end of the season, helping Roberto Di Matteo’s side lift both the FA Cup and Champions League with goals in the respective finals.
But, at 34 years of age, the former Marseille star decided it was time for a change, and opted to join close-friend Nicolas Anelka in China.
After much media hype, Drogba finally got a chance to do some talking on the pitch yesterday, brought on as a half-time substitute and setting-up Cao Yunding for his new side’s equaliser.
"I am happy that everything went right in my first 45 minutes here," Drogba told the press post-match.
"It was a little bit hard for me to get into the game at the beginning, but when I got used to the rhythm, I began to enjoy the game. I am feeling good now and was accustomed to all things in China now. It is very comfortable playing alongside my former team-mate Nicolas [Anelka]."
Shanghai Shenhua boss Sergio Batista was delighted with the performance of Drogba, who was initially expected to feature for less than 30 minutes because of concerns over his fitness.
However, the manager revealed he had discussions with the striker at half-time, and decided to get him involved immediately.
"I said before the match that Drogba could play 30 minutes according to his physical condition, but I was wrong. He showed his uniqueness in the team, although he has yet to do more to recover," said Batista post-match.
"I had to talk with Didier in the dressing room [at half time] and he felt he could deal with the 45 minutes left. So we decided to let him play, you could say it is in time. He needs more time to get fit, but he is an important member of our team."
The cameo performance also did enough to convince ex-Blackburn striker Yakubu that Shanghai Shenhua can challenge for the title with Drogba in the side.
Currently sitting 12th in the league, they face Manchester United in a prestigious friendly on Wednesday night, before getting back to the serious business of looking to move up the table.
"He showed the quality today you know, he gave more confidence to the team, you have to see the way he played today, when he is 100 per cent, he can help Shanghai win the league," said Yakubu, who now leads the line for Guangzhou R&F.
Watch the impact Drogba made & his assist in the draw here:
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