Timeline: Nicolas Anelka haunted by controversy
West Bromwich Albion and France’s Nicolas Anelka is consistently in the news for all the wrong reasons. On Tuesday he was charged by the FA for celebrating a goal, during an English Premier League match last month, with a ‘quenelle’ salute, widely known as an anti-Semitic gesture.
Following the episode, Rediff.com follows the Frenchman's brushes with trouble.
There are footballers who make news for their skills, and others who, well, just make news!
The likes of AC Milan and Italy’s Mario Balotelli, Liverpool and Uruguay’s Luis Suarez, and West Bromwich Albion and France’s Nicolas Anelka slip effortlessly into the second category.
While Balotelli and Suarez are ‘behaving well’ of late, the much tarnished Anelka’s reputation touched a new nadir.
Last month, the 34-year-old celebrated a goal against West Ham United in their Premier League match by making a ‘quenelle’ salute, widely known as an anti-Semitic gesture.
The West Brom sponsor Zoopla announces it will end its £3m-a-year sponsorship of the club due to the controversy.
Following the lesser-known Nazi salute and the subsequent uproar, especially in Anelka’s native France, the English Football Association (FA) charged the former France international under Rule E3 for 'making an abusive and/or indecent and/or insulting and/or improper gesture'.
Anelka, who has denied he used it in any derogatory way, has until 1800 GMT on Thursday to respond to the charge which carries a minimum five-game ban.
However, this episode is not an aberration in the man’s character certificate. Anelka, who has played most of his football in the English Premier League, has for the longest time been controversy’s favourite child.
Image: Nicolas Anelka of West Brom (centre) does the 'quenelle' salute' as he celebrates scoring a goal against West Ham United during their English Premier League match on December 28, 2013
Photographs: Christopher Lee/Getty Images
His first brush with trouble was way back in 1998, his maiden season at Arsenal. His technical superiority helped the team to the English Premier League and the FA Cup.
But his nonchalance and apparent laziness started to worry Arsenal fans. He also became insecure and termed then team-mate Marc Overmars as ‘selfish’ for not passing the ball enough in goal-scoring opportunities.
In early 1999, it was widely reported that he made incessant calls to French Ligue 1 team Marseille for a transfer, showing his unhappiness at Highbury. The fans didn’t take too well to this and he was jeered by supporters. He was also given the nickname ‘Le Sulk’ for his attitude.
Image: Nicolas Anelka playing for Arsenal
Photographs: Mark Thompson /Allsport/Getty Images
Undisciplined ways at Real Madrid
The ever discontent Anelka then signed for Real Madrid in 1999 but his undisciplined ways continued in Spain. He didn’t see eye to eye on a lot of issues with coach Vincent del Bosque, especially training and fitness. He was given a 45-day suspension in 2000 for refusing to train.
Anelka, who then got a transfer back to England with a Liverpool signing in 2002, showed signs of discord with then coach Gérard Houllier. He claimed Houllier couldn’t stand a ‘big personality’ like himself.
Image: Nicolas Anelka (2nd from left) with Real Madrid teammates at a training session in 2000
Photographs: Shaun Botterill/ALLSPORT/Getty Images
'We wanted Anelka's sanction to set an example'
The maverick Frenchman is also known to have brushed team-mates and officials from the national side the wrong way.
After being snubbed for the 2002 World Cup, Anelka said he would never play for France again, only to apologise a year-and-a-half later.
Anelka’s biggest controversy however came during the 2010 World Cup.
France sparked a big outcry at the World Cup by refusing to train at their base in Knysna, Western Cape, after Anelka was sent home in disgrace for foul-mouthed comments muttered at hal-ftime of a 2-0 defeat by Mexico in Polokwane.
It was a bust-up with then coach Raymond Domenech.
Anelka was eventually banned for 18 games by the France team after the players' World Cup revolt.
"We wanted Anelka's sanction to set an example," France Football Federation’s disciplinary commission president Jean Mazzella had said.
Anelka refused to apologise for the episode and had to forcefully end his career thereafter. He had 14 goals in 69 appearances.
Image: France captain Patrice Evra (left) with Nicolas Anelka (centre) and Florent Malouda train during the 2010 World Cup
Training with youth team
Anelka, who played for Manchester City before joining Chelsea in 2008 until 2012, said he was forced to train with the youth team and was denied the first team car park as a punishment. But it was his superb partnership up front with Didier Drogba at Chelsea that put him among the headlines.
Image: Nicolas Anelka of Chelsea
Photographs: Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images
Bust-up with Shanghai fan
For a man whose career is chequered with controversy, another row followed Anelka in China when in early 2012 he joined Chinese Super League club Shanghai Shenhua.
The striker was not very successful at the club and he was further frustrated when he got into a spat with a fan.
Anelka argued with a Shenhua fan following an away defeat when the Frenchman refused to make a customary bow to supporters after the final whistle.
Image: Shanghai Shenhua's Nicolas Anelka of France (2nd from left) during a training session
Photographs: Aly Song/Reuters