SHANGHAI, China - Shenhua have entered the "final round" of negotiations to bring former Chelsea striker Didier Drogba to China, the official Shanghai Daily newspaper said on Friday.
The Chinese Super League club have reportedly been in talks for months with Ivory Coast's Drogba, who would join his former Chelsea team-mate striker Nicolas Anelka if the deal goes through.
"A top Shenhua official left for Ivory Coast for the final round of negotiations to sign star striker Didier Drogba," the report said.
The newspaper said a Shenhua board member, Zhou Jun, would hold direct talks with the 34-year-old player.
Speaking on Thursday, Shenhua's new manager Sergio Batista boosted hopes Drogba might join the club.
"The possibility of Drogba coming is still relatively large," Batista told a news conference, a transcript of which was posted on a Shanghai media website.
"I believe the club's management is still in contact with Drogba," he said, adding he did not expect news until after June 30.
Shenhua declined to comment on Friday.
Drogba left Chelsea after helping the English Premier League club to their first ever Champions League triumph last month.
Former Argentina manager Batista joined Shenhua, sitting ninth in the 16-club Chinese league, late last month after the club sacked French coach Jean Tigana and temporarily made Anelka player-coach.
Meanwhile record seven-time Africa Cup of Nations title holders Egypt suffered a stunning 3-2 home loss to 10-man Central African Republic on Friday in a first round qualifier staged behind closed doors.
The first leg result ended a 38-match unbeaten home run by the Pharaohs since qualifying was introduced in 1965 and leaves them in danger of elimination after the teams clash again on June 30 in Bangui.
Despite the disadvantage of playing at a silent Borg El Arab military stadium in Mediterranean city Alexandria, Egypt were expected to build on an impressive World Cup qualifying triumph in Guinea last weekend.
After Mohamed Zidan put the home team ahead on 10 minutes, his blunder at the other end of the field allowed Hilaire Momi to equalise before the visitors had Salif Keita sent off for a second caution.
Mohamed Salah atoned for several squandered scoring chances by putting Egypt ahead again three minutes into the second half but the home defence was caught napping just past the hour mark.