Didier Drogba is considering a proposal to move to Chinese football as his request for a two-year contract extension continues to go unmet at Chelsea.
In what would constitute an extraordinary statement of intent by the Chinese Super League, the 33 year old has been invited to join fellow Chelsea forward Nicolas Anelka at Shanghai Shenhua.
Shenhua intend to announce the acquisition of Anelka this week on a lucrative, three-year contract that will include significant commercial components.
Anelka has been exiled from Chelsea's first-team squad by Andre Villas-Boas, who has excluded the former France striker from senior training and approved the acceptance of a transfer request.
Out of contract at the end of this season, Drogba is entitled to discuss terms with overseas clubs from January 1, and has an array of suitors. The Ivorian and his family are settled in London but he is reluctant to compromise on the terms of his next deal to remain in the city.
Chelsea presented Drogba with a single-season extension in October that reflected attempts to control salary costs and a long-term strategy to reduce their squad's average age. The African's counterproposal of a two-year deal was rejected by the club, who have made no offer of improved terms since.
Drogba has known since pre-season that Villas-Boas considered him a reduced force, and intended to use Fernando Torres ahead of him at centre forward.
Although Chelsea's manager has subsequently relegated Torres to the bench and asked Drogba to help him turnaround a poor sequence of results, their relationship remains difficult.
At the end of a week in which Drogba's two goals against Valencia secured a place in the last 16 of the Champions League, Villas-Boas lauded the striker.
His stance on the player's future, however, was equivocal, indicating that upcoming international commitments with the Ivory Coast were being factored into a decision on the player's future.
"His level of performance has been outstanding," said Villas-Boas. "Of course the club have to agree that players who perform are the players who should continue. It's an ongoing talk with him and his people.
"Also we have to recall that he's going to the African Nations Cup and won't be back until February 12, so there's a lot to decide. But his professionalism and integrity will never be in question, regardless with what happens with his contract."
In addition to Anelka and Alex, the Brazilian defender, who has also been excluded from training, Villas-Boas has been backed by the club in phasing Frank Lampard and John Terry out of the first team.
Shenhua's courtship of both Anelka and Drogba is part of a plan to win the Chinese Super League for the first time. The first Chinese club to employ a foreign chief executive and technical director, Shenhua finished 11th in the 16-team division last year, and are to be coached by Jean Tigana, the former Fulham manager, when the new season begins in February.
"He [Tigana] has already made a one-year coaching plan for the team," said owner Zhu Jun. "Football in China did not lack money, nor people, but confidence and hope."