Shanghai - Football star Didier Drogba will arrive in China by July 13 "at the latest" to join Shanghai Shenhua, the team's coach said Friday, amid huge anticipation he will help turn the club's season around.
Shenhua have made a poor start to their Chinese Super League campaign this year despite former France forward Nicolas Anelka joining the team to much fanfare, winning just three games and ranking 12th in the 16-club league.
"The (Shenhua) club told me his (Drogba) arrival will be on July 13th at the latest," coach Sergio Batista told reporters, according to a transcript of a press conference posted on a Shanghai news website.
A Shenhua club official confirmed the news, but would not disclose more details on the matter.
"Certainly I wish he could arrive as early as possible," Batista said about the 34-year-old Ivory Coast forward.
Shenhua are one of several Chinese football clubs to have gone on a spending spree on foreign players and managers in a bid to raise their game, as the league attempts to shrug off years of damaging corruption scandals.
Until recently, Chinese football was notorious for its "black whistle" cheating by referees and frequent, related outbursts of crowd violence, plus the repeated failures of its national team.
Batista has replaced French coach Jean Tigana, who was sacked from the club in April, just seven games after taking charge. The Argentine is hoping to take Shenhua to a top-three finish and cup victory this season.
Shenhua also recently announced they had signed up with Colombia midfielder Giovanni Moreno, just days after bringing Drogba to the fold.
Anelka has shown indifferent form this year, scoring just twice in nine appearances since January, but Batista insisted last week the Frenchman, along with Drogba and Moreno, would revitalise the club.
If Drogba joins the team as soon as he arrives, one of his first games will be against old rivals Manchester United, who will play Shanghai Shenhua on July 25th as part of their pre-season tour.