The former Chelsea strikers Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka could be sold by China’s Shanghai Shenhua due to an escalating equity stake row among shareholders, the local media have reported.

Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka may leave Shenhua in shareholders row

The chairman, Zhu Jun, who holds a 28.5% stake, would pay his share of the club’s daily costs only if his demands for greater control were met, according to the China Daily.

Zhu currently controls the Chinese Super League club along with five state-owned enterprises after becoming a shareholder in 2007. The agreement was that if he invested the equivalent of £15m over two years, his stake would increase to more than 70%, the newspaper reported.

The Oriental Sports Daily reported that Zhu had 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, a source told the Oriental.

“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 only 28.5% of the club’s expenditure, potentially affecting player salaries.

The Colombian Giovanni Moreno missed the match against Shandong Luneng at the weekend amid speculation Shenhua had fallen short in transfer fee payments to Argentina’s Racing Club.

The futures of Drogba and Anelka could be in the balance if Shenhua fail to make their salary payments. Both are reportedly paid more than $300,000 a week.

Despite investing heavily in big-name foreign players, Shenhua are 10th in the 16-team Chinese Super League on 27 points from 23 matches. The leaders, Guangzhou Evergrande, have 47 points.

By Guardian