Shanghai: Nicolas Anelka, the most high-profile foreign footballer ever to sign for the Chinese league, arrived to join up with his new side Shanghai Shenhua on Wednesday, the club said.
The 32-year-old former Chelsea striker posed for a photo with an immigration official at the city's airport before being whisked through security to a special VIP exit, the state-backed media website Eastday said.
China's legion of football fans are hoping the French international will not only boost Shenhua, who finished in the bottom half of the table last season, but also raise the standard of play in the country's scandal-hit Super League.
"Anelka finally came to Shenhua. My dream has finally come true," said one fan, Danni, on his microblog. "The Shenhua club's performance will definitely be worth watching this year."
Anelka was taken to the luxury Peninsula hotel, where he had breakfast in the lobby lounge while listening to music on his headphones, staff members said.
A Shenhua official confirmed his arrival to AFP. The club's players arrived back in Shanghai on Wednesday after training in Spain.
One waiter who saw Anelka said the player's star power was a draw for Chinese football. "I will definitely go see a match this season," he said.
The season starts in March, but Shenhua have not announced specific dates.
Some fans, however, were pessimistic about the ability of one player to lift Shenhua to the top.
"Shenhua's defence is rotten. Just depending on Anelka to win the championship is dreaming," one said.
Anelka's arrival comes a year after a major crackdown on widespread match-fixing that left senior officials facing jail and severely damaged the reputation of China's Super League.
He is due to meet fans at an event Thursday, when he will launch a new online game for a Chinese company headed by Shenhua's major shareholder -- a commercial endorsement which will net him 2.7 million euros.
The Chinese club has declined to say how much Anelka will earn for his two-year contract with the team.
Shenhua, 11th in the Chinese league last season, is the latest stop on Anelka's nomadic career, which has also taken in Arsenal, Paris Saint-Germain, Liverpool, Manchester City, Bolton Wanderers and Turkey's Fenerbahce.