Shanghai Shenhua's New Manager: Nicolas Anelka?

VALENCIA, SPAIN - SEPTEMBER 28: Nicolas Anelka of Chelsea reacts during the UEFA Champions League Group E match between Valencia CF and Chelsea at Estadio Mestalla on September 28, 2011 in Valencia, Spain. (Photo by Manuel Queimadelos Alonso/Getty Images)

According to bizarre reports out of China, and this AFP article which is based on them, the management of Chinese club Shanghai Shenhua have sacked their coaching staff following a string of poor results. The club bosses insist manager Jean Tigana is still in his position, though outside reports suggest he has indeed been sacked or is waiting to iron out a severance deal. The assistants Tigana brought with him have definitely been sacked, though, and have been replaced by Frenchmen Alioune Kissima Toure and Jean-Florent Ikwange Ibenge and Britons Dan Harris and Ian Michael Walker, of Birmingham City and Bishop's Stortford respectively.

What does this have to do with former Chelsea man Nicolas Anelka, you ask? Take a look at this rather-interesting quote, supposedly from a Shenhua official:

"We fired the assistant coaches. Tigana is still the coach of the team. Anelka is now on the coaching team."

Now, whether it means Nico has been taken into some sort of assistant coaching role, or if he has, as the world's football media are speculating, been named temporary player-manager, it's certainly an interesting development. If you had asked me, or pretty much anyone, really, to name a list of players least likely to enter management, you probably would have seen Anelka on that list.

In fairness, though, it is only Shanghai Shenhua, where Nico is a very big fish in a small-to-medium-sized pond. He might not have a long-term future in management, but as the only player at the club with real top-level experience, he's probably the most tactically- and technically-astute person on staff at the moment, so being added to the coaching staff is something of a default decision.

When he left, we all wished him well, but I'm sure none of us expected this. This decision is ultimately unlikely to have any effect on the current Chelsea squad, though Shanghai has been strongly-rumoured as Didier Drogba's destination in the summer. Will we end up seeing Didier forced play under Nico and get to enjoy their hijinks as some sort of footballing Odd Couple?* No matter what the long-term implications, this is certainly one of the more interesting Former Blue stories in recent memory.

*No. In all likelihood, this is a temporary move, and/or a default move as a result of Nico's relatively-vast experience. We can dream, though. : D

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