Tim Cahill's new club: the inside word

New York to Shanghai - Tim Cahill has moved from the most energetic city in the western world to one that is certainly up there when it comes to the east. Shanghai moves faster than Mathew Leckie, is more confident than Ange Postecoglou and is as exciting as the sight of the man himself rising in the air to meet a cross.

When Cahill produced two specials in the quarter-finals to defeat the Red Dragons, there were articles in the Chinese media saying that their players had to learn from this player and his massive will to win and desperation to avoid defeat. 

The feeling was that while people always talk of finding the next Messi or Ronaldo, the key is to finding competitors like Cahill. Now they can see the real thing close up every week.

In Australia fans would recall Shanghai Shenhua for their ACL clashes against the likes of Sydney FC. The club also had on their books Socceroo Mark Milligan, who remains good friends with China's national team keeper Wang Dalei who played alongside the Aussie at the club.    But globally Shanghai Shenhua are still largely known for the signing of Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka in 2012. But at the club's training base in the lead-up to the big kick off for the new season it was obvious all was not well   Coach, and part of that legendary early eighties French midfield, Jean Tigana was struggling to adapt to life in China but more than that, struggling to adapt to owner Zhu Jun, a businessman who made headlines over the world for selecting himself for prestigious friendly games. 

When English tabloids automatically insert the adjective 'flamboyant' when describing you, then you're in trouble.

At the time, Shanghai were going through changes. A brand new club house had just been built, full of glass, arty metal staircase, black paint, coffee and fruit. Yet the training pitches were poor and academy classrooms decrepit. 

Shanghai would not be the first to spend big on getting an infrastructure in place before the training pitches. 

Drogba and Anelka didn't last long, problems over salary had them heading back west in a matter of months, and made little impact. Zhu Jun fought with fellow shareholders and mid-table finishes were actually impressive when giving the chaos behind the scenes.

Zhu sold up a year ago to the Greenland Corporation who then upset fans by removing Shenhua from the club's name. It has since been reinstated and rightly so for the fans are some of the best in China. 

Hongkou Stadium, just a little north of downtown is one of the best venues in the country. Not as fantastic or huge as some, but retains a charm of its own. Surrounded by restaurants and bars - fill up on hotpot and beer right outside before heading in- watching a game with the Blue Devils behind the goal, is a marvellous experience.

Shanghai football is always in flux with teams coming, going and merging. Shenhua have been a constant however but now faces its biggest inter-city challenge in the form of Shanghai SIPG who finished fifth, four places higher than Shenhua last season. 

The rival, with Sven-Goran Erikssen at the helm, is ambitious and recently announced the big-money signing of former Guangzhou Evergrande star Dario Conca. The capture of Cahill is, partly at least, in response to this local challenge.

He won't be expected to lead the team to the title, a place in the top four would be seen as a seriously impressive achievement after four successive mid-table finishes. 

Top six would do in a league that is getting more competitive by the month. There is now a strong looking spine to Shenhua. Cahill will appreciate the pace of Brazilian striker Paulo Henrique and should like the vision of Giovanni Moreno in midfield and if Cahill can help coax a little more consistency from the talented Colombian then a good season could be had by all.

2015 has already been a great year for Tim Cahill with his Asian Cup medal and pretty good for China. It remains to be seen how the rest of it pans out for both but a combination of Cahill, Shanghai and a growing league is an exciting one. 

Chinese corner flags need to watch out.