Will he forever rue the day he quit Arsenal?

anelka2Nicholas Anelka appears to enjoy life in London; his two most successful spells have come at Arsenal and Chelsea. At Arsenal, he was an important player in the Double-winning 1997/98 season and added to this start with 18 goals the following season. What followed was an acrimonious departure after he requested a higher salary; the fans turned on him for his perceived lack of loyalty and enthusiasm, he was given the label ‘Le Sulk’ and moved on to Real Madrid for £22.3 million.

Anelka’s time at Real Madrid was an unhappy one; he only spent one season in the Spanish capital during which he fell out with the manager, the fans and some of his teammates. At one point he was given a 45-day suspension for refusing to train when asked to. He was only 20 at this time, and the pressures of playing for such a massive club took their toll as he demonstrated with his immature behaviour. He moved on to PSG for £20 million but struggled to settle and within a year and a half was once again on the move, this time to Liverpool on a six-month loan. The stint at Anfield was a relative success but a permanent transfer did not materialise so Anelka signed for Manchester City for a then club record fee of £13 million. Anelka’s career with Manchester City was actually very productive; he spent three seasons with them and in his second he scored 25 goals in 43 appearances.

Manchester City were not a club that seemed to match Anelka’s ambitions so remarkably he moved on once again; a three year stint in Turkey was followed by a surprise move to Bolton in 2006. At Bolton, Anelka demonstrated how he had matured as a player; there was a great deal of pressure on him as a large portion of their transfer budget had been spent on him and he delivered good performances becoming a fans’ favourite in the process. His form in the Premier League led to a successful move to Chelsea in 2008; Anelka has now played for three of England’s ‘Big Four’.

It has taken Anelka the best part of a decade to find a club that he is comfortable at, where he can play regularly and has a chance of winning trophies. He had all these things at Arsenal but threw it away, and it is likely that he looks back at his days under Arsene Wenger with some regret. Much of his career has been spent on the move; his talents have been wasted for both club and country as a result of his perceived poor attitude. He is a mellower individual now and perhaps suffered as he allowed himself to be led astray by outside influences earlier in his career. His tumultuous departure from Arsenal will always be held against him, but it is more than likely that the player needed to go on this journey to become the person he is now. He is a better player now than ever before; he shows a great awareness on the pitch and provides more than just a goal threat. He will line up for Chelsea against Arsenal with nothing to prove, but maybe with a tinge of regret for his lost years.

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