Sportz Interactive, Dec 12, 2011

Nicolas Anelka: Football's Nomad

Nicolas Anelka's unpredictable career will take another turn in January when the former France striker leaves Chelsea to join Chinese Super League club Shanghai Shenhua.

Chelsea said Monday that the 32-year-old Anelka, who is in the final season of his contract with the English Premier League club, will move to China on a permanent transfer.

Shanghai Shenhua also confirmed the long-rumored transfer, which will make Anelka the most high-profile overseas player in the Chinese league, without giving further details of his length of contract or transfer fee.

French sports daily L'Equipe, without citing sources, said last week that Shenhua had offered the 32-year-old 10.6 million ($14.2 million) per season for two seasons.

Anelka (L) on France duty. That guy on his left looks oddly familiar and seems to be jealous of Anelka's shades.
© AP Images

The fee is unlikely to approach the 15 million pounds (then $29.8 million) Chelsea paid English rival Bolton for Anelka in January 2008. Anelka is no longer in his prime and the club is likely to be happy to recoup even a small fee since he would be eligible for a free transfer when his contract expires at the end of the season.

Although Anelka's four years at Chelsea comprises his longest spell at any club, the Frenchman played only intermittently as the focal point of the Blues' attack. Didier Drogba has occupied that role almost constantly since joining in 2004 and Anelka had seemingly fallen behind Fernando Torres and Daniel Sturridge under new coach Andrea Villas-Boas.

Anelka scored 59 goals in 185 games for the west London club, a good total for a player often played out of position out wide.

He won the Premier League and two FA Cup titles with Chelsea, adding the titles to a haul already including the Premier League and FA Cup with Arsenal, the 2000 Champions League with Real Madrid and the Turkish league with Fenerbahce.

Anelka had appeared settled at Chelsea after playing for eight clubs over the previous 11 years. He had been regularly depicted as a troublemaker by the media and even described as ''The Incredible Sulk'' for his supposedly poor attitude.

Paris Saint-Germain, Arsenal, Madrid, Paris Saint-Germain again, Liverpool, Manchester City, Fenerbahce and Bolton all benefited from the Frenchman's goals and ability before he joined Chelsea and immediately helped the club reach the Champions League final.

He missed Chelsea's decisive seventh penalty kick in the shootout defeat to Manchester United but recovered to finish as the Premier League's leading scorer the following season with 19 goals.

But having slipped back in the reckoning for a first-team spot he and defender Alex, who was also struggling to make it into the side, have been made to train apart from the rest of the first-team squad after asking Chelsea for transfers.

Shanghai Shenhua spokesman Ma Yue said Friday that the club will probably announce this week the arrival of Jean Tigana as coach.

The former France midfielder, who won the European Championship as a player alongside Michel Platini in 1984, previously managed Lyon, Monaco, Fulham, Besiktas and Bordeaux.

He visited Shanghai in November and inspected Shenhua's facilities, Ma said. Tigana last week contacted France's national union of managers to ask about assistants who could join him in China.


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