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Athletes say the darndest things! Right, Drogba?

Footballer Didier Drogba looks up to the

Footballer Didier Drogba looks up to the crowd at Hongkou Stadium before his new team Shanghai Shenghua’s match against Beijing Guo An in Shanghai on July 14, 2012. Drogba was given a hero’s welcome as he arrived in China to start a two-and-a-half year contract that is expected to make him one of football’s highest-paid players. AFP PHOTO / Peter PARKS (Photo credit should read PETER PARKS/AFP/GettyImages)

AFP/Getty Images

Former Chelsea striker Didier Drogba reported for duty in Shangahi on Saturday, surely rested and apparently eager to write the final chapter in his storied career.

The Ivorian international, whose fierce determination around goal was so instrumental in guiding the Blues to a Champions League crowning last spring, got a hero’s welcome at the local airport.

And what did he say about the two-year deal with Shanghai Shenhua that will pay him a reported $15 million annually?

‘It would have been easier for me to stay in Europe, but I chose China. Money is not the most important. I am here for a whole new experience.’'

Yes, yes, the “new experience” is surely it.

Forgive me my cynicism. (But would it have killed him to smile, wink and punctuate that thought with, “But the money sure didn’t hurt!”)

Part of that “experience,” by the way, will be attempting to drag this team out of 13th place in the 16-team Chinese Super League.

At least Drogba will have plenty of help, thanks to the seemingly unlimited financing of club owner Zhu Jun, whose money came from an online gambling empire. Drogba joins another former Chelsea striker, Nicolas Anelka, along with former Argentina national team manager Sergio Batista and Argentine playmaker Dario Conca, a $10 million signing from Fluminense.