December 12, 2001

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Unhappiness descends on Anelka again

Nicolas Anelka is considered one of the most gifted French strikers but after another bout of bad temper was splashed across the newspapers his presence at the 2002 World Cup finals is in doubt.

Anelka is openly at odds with PSG coach Luis Fernandez, who has left him on the bench many times over the last two months, and there are suggestions the player might leave PSG before the season's end.

"The door is open as I don't want to keep someone against his will," said Fernandez. "It's up to the club to decide if they want to sell him."

Just as he did at Real Madrid, the 22-year-old international has complained about his coach's strategy. Anelka says he spends too many games on the bench and has wasted time since he returned to the Parisian club last year.

Since the season started, Anelka has scored only two goals in league matches, far below what was expected of him by the club who spent 218 million francs ($ 29.61 million) to sign him from Real Madrid.

Nicolas Anelka Fernandez has often preferred to use Brazilian duo Alex and Aloisio or youthful Nigeria striker Bartholomew Ogbeche, leaving Anelka on the bench.

The French international was absent from the UEFA Cup match at Glasgow Rangers, from a league cup tie at Troyes and from the game against Olympique Marseille at the Parc des Princes.

French media suggested that Anelka might leave before the end of the season even though PSG chairman Laurent Perpere insisted he was still a key part of the squad.

"Nicolas is someone special," said Perpere. "He doesn't speak much. He is a kind of mysterious character. And as he is a good player people don't understand why he has poor records."


France Football said that Anelka, who left PSG in 1997 to join Arsenal, might be interested in returning to the English premier league.

"The most reliable option could be Chelsea," said the magazine. "Chelsea asked Anelka's brother (his agent) to let them know when the player might be interested in going back to England.

"Anelka played with (Chelsea) midfielder Emmanuel Petit when they were at Arsenal and it would be a good opportunity for him to get close to French captain Marcel Desailly before the World Cup finals."

Anelka has rarely seemed happy at any club.

He originally left PSG to join Arsenal at the age of 17, saying he was not playing enough and wanted to boost his international career.

The Frenchman did have some good times at Arsenal and opened the door to several compatriots such as Patrick Vieira, Thierry Henry, Robert Pires and Sylvain Wiltord who shone at the London side.

Coach Arsene Wenger put great faith in the striker and did everything he could to keep him but Anelka said he was unhappy with the English media, whom he accused of inventing stories about him.

He moved to Real Madrid in 1999 and found himself on the Spanish champions' bench, being considered only as a substitute for local hero Raul.

"The situation is terrible there," Anelka said then. "I can't lead a normal life. People there don't respect your private life. They always hassle you. All I need is peace. That's why I want to return to PSG."

And that was what he did in 2000.


For a while Anelka was happy as coach Philippe Bergeroo always put him on the starting list.

But since Bergeroo was sacked and replaced by former Paris player Luis Fernandez, Anelka has been dissatisfied again.

Fernandez reshuffled the squad during the summer break, signing several foreign players such as Pochettino, Arteta, Hugo Leal, Ronaldhino and Ogbeche.

Anelka felt isolated after seeing several of his good friends go, including Peter Luccin, Pierre Ducrocq, Edouard Cisse, Didier Domi or Stephane Dalmat.

The key question now is whether Anelka will be in the 22-strong squad which will defend the World Cup for France in South Korea and Japan next year.

He was not picked for the 1998 World Cup squad by previous coach Aime Jacquet and gave a poor performance in the 2000 European championship -- he failed to score while Henry was named twice man of the match.

Anelka made his comeback for France in a friendly against Australia in Melbourne last month after being left out of their previous three matches.

Henry, Wiltord and David Trezeguet are certain to be picked for the World Cup but Anelka still needs to convince French coach Roger Lemerre that he should be a fixture in the squad.

At Arsenal, Wenger remains convinced of Anelka's worth. "Nicolas can cope with any kind of football," he said. "His talent is huge and the talent is something you never lose."

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