Shanghai Shenhua yesterday said they were in contract talks with Chelsea striker Nicolas Anelka and an announcement would be made within days, in what would be a major coup for Chinese football.
A club official would not confirm reports of a three-year deal but he said negotiations were continuing with the 32-year-old Frenchman, who has requested a transfer from the English Premier League giants.
The official added that ambitious Shanghai were also in talks with French coach Jean Tigana, in another sign of the Chinese Super League's increasing financial clout.
Anelka would be the most high-profile player to appear in China's Super League, which is growing in stature despite significant corruption problems which have left several officials facing jail.
In July, Argentine midfielder Dario Conca became China's most expensive signing -- and reportedly, one of the world's best paid players -- when he inked a $10 million deal with Guangzhou Evergrande.
The Chinese champions, who are bankrolled by a leading property company and were relegated two seasons ago for match-fixing, have also splashed out $7.5 million on Brazilian forwards Cleo and Muriqui, last season's top scorer.
China's foreign legion also includes Henan Construction's Leandro Netto de Macedo and Shanghai's Luis Salmeron, while Romanian Christian Danalache and Serb Aleksander Jevtic both play for Jiangsu Sainty.
Chinese soccer was boosted in July when tycoon Wang Jianlin, head of the Dalian Wande real estate company, announced a $77 million gift to the Chinese Football Association to fund coaching programmes.
Despite its vast size, and love of football, China have only reached one World Cup -- in 2002, when they lost all their games without scoring once -- while the domestic game has been plagued by scandals and violence.
When the Super League kicked off in July, there was no title sponsor and state broadcaster CCTV refused to broadcast games on national television.
Shanghai Shenhua finished 11th last season, while Anelka has previously played for Paris Saint Germain, Arsenal, Real Madrid, Liverpool, Manchester City, Bolton and Turkey's Fenerbahce.*AFP
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