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France focus

Anelka's issues with authority

June 19, 2010
By Tom Adams
(Archive)

The biggest controversy of the World Cup so far has resulted in Nicolas Anelka being sent home by France, but it is not the first time the striker has found his conduct under scrutiny.

Another shadow has been cast over the career of Nicolas Anelka
GettyImagesAnother shadow has been cast over the career of Nicolas Anelka

• Anelka sent home by France

Though his attitude has certainly improved since he was known as 'Le Sulk' during his stormy spell at Arsenal, Anelka has never been one to shy away from conflict.

And while reportedly telling Raymond Domenech to "go screw yourself, dirty son of a whore" is perhaps his most contentious outburst yet, Anelka has a long history of falling out with his coaches.

Arsenal (1999): Anelka was transformed from a willowy teenager into the PFA Young Player of the Year for the 1998-99 season by Arsene Wenger, but he soon sought a move away from North London after becoming a disruptive presence in the dressing room and showing animosity towards the English media. In order to force through a £23 million move to Real Madrid, Anelka even threatened to go on strike. His brother and agent, Claude, warned: "Arsenal must hurry if they want to conclude a deal - if not Nicolas will stay a year without playing. That's no problem." Anelka succeeded in his aim, Arsenal built a training ground with the £22.5 million profit generated by his sale and brought in Thierry Henry to replace him.

Real Madrid (2000): It did not take long for Anelka to embellish his reputation as a troublemaker in the Spanish capital as he was suspended for 45 days without pay in March of 2000. Anelka had refused to train for three days and the punishment was the most severe ever handed down by Real. The club's vice-president Juan Onieva told Marca: "It's clear that he is a child, but we still don't know the age of the child." Anelka had grown frustrated by Vicente del Bosque's tendency to play him out of position and told the coach as much. Having broken the Spanish transfer record to sign the striker, and seen him score just two goals in 19 La Liga appearances, Real cut their losses after only one season as Anelka slunk back to Paris Saint Germain.

Liverpool (2002): Anelka returned to English football when joining Liverpool on loan and he made a positive impression at Anfield. However, Gerard Houllier decided against signing the striker on a permanent deal, instead opting to recruit Senegal forward El Hadji Diouf. Houllier has since revealed that machinations behind the scenes convinced him that Anelka was not right for Liverpool. "I did not like the fact that, while he was at Liverpool with a purchase option to play for us, his brothers had tried to contact other clubs to sell him," Houllier said. "I did not think that was fair play." Anelka later responded: "He can't be trusted and I resented the way he treated me. Some people said I was too strong a character for Houllier, that I stood up against him and he didn't like it. But that was completely untrue. I felt everyone at the club wanted me to stay - everyone except for Houllier."

Chelsea (2008): In the aftermath of Chelsea's Champions League final defeat at the hands of Manchester United, in which Anelka missed a crucial penalty in the shoot-out in Moscow, he was not afraid to launch into a scathing attack on manager Avram Grant. The Israeli's fate was sealed soon afterwards when he was sacked by Chelsea. "At no point did I think I was going to come on," Anelka said of his introduction as a substitute. "I was on the bench for 110 minutes and suddenly I am asked to play, not even a minute after I was sent out to warm up. I don't know if that has ever happened in a Champions League final, in a match of that intensity, that a player has gone on to the pitch without having warmed up. I was asked to take one of the first five kicks. But I said: 'That is out of the question, I have come on basically as a right back and you want me to take a penalty.' So I had to go in seventh but Van der Sar pushed away my shot. All the better for him, that is the game."