Pepe Mel to continue with Anelka
Pepe Mel will continue to select Nicolas Anelka -- despite further doubts over whether the striker will be allowed to see out the remainder of his contract at West Bromwich Albion.
New Albion head coach Mel has been caught in the middle of the controversy surrounding the French striker, who has ruled out a potential move to Lazio and stated he wants to honour the remaining five months of his existing deal at the Hawthorns.
Anelka's current deal expires in the summer, but Albion have been taking legal advice over whether they are able to terminate the 34-year-old's contract, should he be found guilty of racist behaviour, following his charge by the Football Association for his "quenelle" gesture.
Albion face losing the striker, who has requested a personal hearing, for a possible ten games. The FA's decision's final ruling is not expected until the end of December and a hefty ban, would rule Anelka out of the vast majority of the remaining games.
"We respect the Football Association and the process, but Nicolas is a player I need and I will decide whether to select him to play for as long as he is available," said Mel. "He has trained very well and his attitude has been good. I think it shows he wants to stay with the club."
Mel's situation has been made more difficult with the loss of Stephane Sessegnon for at least a month because of the need for surgery on a groin injury.
Over the weekend, stories in Italy claimed Lazio had spoken to the French forward’s representatives about an escape route from the Premier League as he awaits his hearing.
Lazio were prepared to offer a short-term deal and to complicate the issue futher, WBA are making certain of their own legal position, before conducting their own investigation into the striker's behaviour.
Terminating Anelka's contract remains a possibility, or WBA may opt to pay off the remainder of the contract to the former French international.