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June 20, 2010

Anelka added to infamous list

By Andrew Warshaw

Fresh revelations have emerged over the depths of division that preceded Nicolas Anelka being sent home in disgrace from France's World Cup squad.

Nicolas Anelka was sent home from South Africa after clashing with now-departed coach Raymond Domenech
GettyImages / FranckFifeNicolas Anelka was sent home from South Africa after clashing with now-departed coach Raymond Domenech

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As Anelka joined a long list of infamous players shown a red card by their own federation, it emerged that French legend Zinedine Zidane may have been instrumental in the build-up to the verbal spat with coach Raymond Domench that led to the Chelsea forward being ditched.

According to French newspaper Liberation, Domenech was fully prepared to change the French formation, and make several changes, after being visited by a delegation of four players the day before the Mexico match.

The four are understood to have been skipper Patrice Evra, Franck Ribery, Thierry Henry and William Gallas. According to Liberation, Domenech accepted their demands, only to change his mind when he learned on the day of the match that Zidane - himself heaping humiliation on France when he was famously sent off for headbutting on Marco Materazzi in the 2006 final - had orchestrated the move for a change of tactics.

Domenech is understood to have been furious at the suggestion that Zidane was running the team instead of him and reacted by making just one change to the side that drew 0-0 with Uruguay and sticking rigidly after all to his 4-2-3-1 system.

Meanwhile, as the inquest into Anelka's dramatic departure continues, further French reports say the decision to throw him out was only taken after he refused to apologise to Domenech for the foul-mouth abuse he dished out ("go screw yourself, you son of a whore") after being substituted at halftime during the Mexico game.

Once hailed as a unique talent, Anelka, who was in his first World Cup at the age of 31, will now be remembered instead for adding his name to an equally unique list of players sent home from the biggest stage of all.

Eight years ago, Roy Keane was famously told to pack up after clashing with Republic of Ireland manager Mick McCarthy. Keane had previously criticised Ireland's training facilities but his public comments were not quite as vociferous as those of Anelka.

Four years earlier still, Faustina Asprilla was sent home for criticising the Colombian coach live on air but far more infamous was the dope test failed by Diego Maradona in 1994. Eight years after the Hand of God, the current Argentine coach was found to have tested positive for ephedrine, a banned substance, and sent packing.

Perhaps the most quirky case of a player being axed concerned Anelka's compatriot Pablo Larios in 1982. The revelation that Larios was having an affair with the wife of team-mate Michel Platini was considered far too hot a subject for the dressing room. Even the French dressing room.

Another failed drugs test, this time in 1978, did for Scottish winger Willie Johnstone who tested positive before his country's opener against Peru - and was never to play international football again.

While some of the others to be axed from the tournament in the modern era were Haiti's Ernest Jean-Joseph in 1974, again for drugs, and the German pair of Uli Stein (1986) and Stefan Effenberg (1994), the first for ridiculing Franz Beckenbauer, the second for a rude gesture.