French striker Nicolas Anelka will become a "player-coach" at Chinese Super League side Shanghai Shenhua, the club said Thursday while insisting French head coach Jean Tigana remained on board.
A Shenhua official confirmed reports they had sacked three assistant coaches after winning only two of their five matches so far this season, but said Tigana was still in his position following speculation he would also be axed.
"We fired the assistant coaches. Tigana is still the coach of the team," the official, who declined to be named, told AFP. "Anelka is now on the coaching team."
Shenhua said Anelka would be "player-coach", participating in the management of daily training, according to a statement on its website.
The former Arsenal and Chelsea player, the most high-profile foreign footballer to sign for the Chinese league, joined Shenhua in January amid hopes he could boost performances at the club, which finished in the bottom half of the table last season.
Anelka said the change in coaching staff marked a "new beginning" for the team.
"Being a coach and being a player are different, but I will have a better connection with my teammates on the field," Internet portal Sina quoted him as telling a news conference, which foreign media were not allowed to attend.
"I hope I can lead the team to success in tomorrow's game," he said. Shenhua will play the Tianjin Teda club on Friday.
Tigana was not present at the news conference.
The Oriental Sports Daily said the club had sacked three assistant coaches brought on board by Tigana and hired four new ones as replacements.
The new assistant coaches were two French nationals, Alioune Kissima Toure and Jean-Florent Ikwange Ibenge, the newspaper said.
Two Britons also joined the staff -- former Birmingham City club fitness coach Dan Harris and former Bishop's Stortford club coach Ian Michael Walker, who will work with the goalkeepers, it said.
Tigana, the former Fulham and Monaco boss, joined Shenhua as the club sought out more foreign talent. At a news conference in December shortly after his arrival, Tigana called on fans and staff to support him.
"I will do the maximum, but alone you cannot win. I need the whole club to be behind me to have this winning mentality," he said.