Former Chelsea forward Nicolas Anelka has been linked with a move back to our fair shores recently, with both West Ham and Liverpool FC reported to be interested in securing his services, but should any such switch come to fruition, what chances does it have of being a success?
Of course, the question itself is somewhat subjective as it all depends on how highly you rate Anelka as a player, particularly now that he is entering the twilight of his career at 33 years of age, but with 123 goals behind him in the Premier League, he remains an experienced and consistent performer, capable of playing in various roles, all which add up to him being an attractive prospect.
The former France international has had a career blighted by questionable choices, and while he was a success at Stamford Bridge, spending a large majority of his peak years in the footballing backwaters of Manchester City, Fenerbache and Bolton will not be what he had in mind and there’s a strong chance that he hasn’t quite fulfilled his potential. His move to Chinese club Shanghai Shenhua last January, on a wage reported to be in the region of €12 million per year would have to go down as another misstep.
He certainly still has something to contribute to a Premier League club and while his final few months at Chelsea were hindered by a lack of a clearly defined role, a goal drought and poor form, Liverpool and West Ham don’t have quite the same ambitions at the moment as the west London outfit.
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Hammers boss Sam Allardyce spoke openly of his interest of re-uniting with the player he first brought to Bolton six years ago, telling reporters at the weekend: “It could interest me, of course it could. It would be of interest if that is a possibility financially and he wanted to come. I have had no conversations with Nicolas’ agent at this time.”
West Ham are currently flying high in the league in sixth place and while very few tipped them to go down, nobody expected that they would settle right back into the top flight action quite so comfortably. The club spent big on attacking strength in the summer, deeming that the likes of Carlton Cole, Ricardo Vaz Te and Nicky Maynard, three players that helped them get promoted, weren’t of sufficient enough quality to keep them up.
In came Modibo Maiga, Matt Jarvis and Andy Carroll on a loan deal, which should the side stay up, they will have a tough decision to make about whether to pay Liverpool an agreed £17m fee for the England striker, and suffice to say that Kevin Nolan has thrived with better service this term.
Anelka would be another step in the right direction to establishing themselves as a credible top eight side. The infrastructure is all there already at the club, while the financial backing has been consistent, so just so long as they continue to progress under Allardyce’s guidance, they could really kick on and march up the table, particularly when you consider the number of teams currently thought to be in a transitional phase.
One of those very teams is Liverpool, another club rumoured to be in the running should Anelka decide that he has had enough of Chinese football when the January transfer window rolls around, although his wages could be a stumbling block for the club he played for on loan from Real Madrid back in 2001-02 and he is known to retain a level of affection for the club and its fans.
While his goalscoring record of just five in 22 appearances is nothing to write home about, the basis of a good understanding with Michael Owen was clearly being formed and former manager Gerard Houllier has since spoken of his regret at not signing him permanently, stating back in 2009: “I think it was a mistake on my part because I should have should have carried on regardless. I thought, right to the end, I was going to sign him, but then I didn’t feel the thing was right.
“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. I did not think that was fair play.”
The fact that his brother Claude has acted as his agent for some years has meant that Anelka’s moves have not always been for the right reasons, seemingly motivated solely by money as opposed to a desire to prove himself on the highest stage, which has seen him fail to settle at a number of clubs.
Moreover, with Brendan Rodgers currently shorn of attacking options, with Fabio Borini sidelined with a foot injury, Luis Suarez has had to practically carry the team at times this season on his way to becoming the Premier League’s top goalscorer and being directly involved in 12 of the team’s 17 league goals. The Uruguayan has also had to do his fair share of setting up chances for his team-mates too, creating 35 from open play this term, the most of any player in the entire league and he could do with somebody else to share the burden with.
The Daily Mirror ran a story yesterday stating that the Merseyside-based club were going to go back in for Daniel Sturridge in January with a £15m offer, a move which doesn’t add up for two reasons – 1. Rodgers didn’t want to bring him in permanently in the summer, only on loan due to concerns about his attitude, so what has changed since then? 2. It remains speculative at best that the club have as much as £15m to spend on new players.
Nevertheless, the need for more attacking options is clear and Anelka would have to take a pay-cut to join either West Ham or Liverpool, but his ability to play out wide would suit both teams 4-2-3-1 formations, while also simultaneously providing some much-needed strength in depth.
It’s far from a clear-cut deal and the financial factors remain a stumbling block to any potential move, but should Anelka still retain the desire to play in a more competitive league, then Liverpool and West Ham could do a lot worse. Sure, he’s lost half a yard of pace, but he’s an extremely intelligent and consistent operator and there will be few shrewder deals to be had in January than this one.
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