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Anelka: I Left Arsenal To Punish Their Fans


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Anelka: I Left Arsenal To Punish Their Fans

Chelsea striker Nicolas Anelka has revealed his somewhat spiteful reasons for leaving Highbury all those years ago...

Nicolas Anelka has made the extraordinary claim that he left Arsenal back in 1999 in order to punish their fans. Even more surprisingly, he has also said that the 17 goals he scored in his final season at Highbury were scored in a spirit of vengence against the club's supporters.

Anelka was apparently unhappy with the way that the fans had voted in a poll to see who would best replace Arsenal striking legend Ian Wright when he retired. Gunners supporters didn't think, at that time, that Anelka was up to the job.

"When I started the season, there was a poll because I had taken the place of Ian Wright," explained Anelka.

"I thought the fans really wanted it to be me and were pleased with me. But seeing the result in the papers and on TV hit me hard because I had the feeling I had done things for nothing.

"I thought ‘So that’s how it is. This is how you thank me. Okay, now you watch what is going to happen. I am going to play, score my goals and just when you are saying Anelka, Anelka, that’s when I’m going to leave.’

"And that is exactly what I did because I was furious with them."

Anelka has had a peripatetic career since then, playing for, amongst others, Paris St-Germain, Manchester City, Fenerbahce and Bolton Wanderers, without ever really fully settling anywhere. Now at Chelsea, he is the Premier League's top scorer this season with 12 goals.

He has had a famously troubled relationship with Arsenal though. In his time there, he fell out with Dennis Bergkamp and Marc Overmars because he felt that they didn't pass to him during games. After that, his stock fell dramatically amongst Gunners fans, players and even directors, when he accused Arsenal vice-chairman David Dein of thinking only about money.

By the time he'd left Arsenal, fans had christened him 'Le Sulk', such was their low opinion of the French international.

Anelka, speaking in a French DVD released to celebrate his career, does acknowledge though that he now, at a more mature 29, feels embarrassed at the way he treated Arsene Wenger when his time at Arsenal was ending.

"I am not saying I was ashamed, but I felt something and had no wish to tell him face-to-face that I wanted to go. It’s as if it was a betrayal. I didn’t want to tell him because he represented someone extraordinary in my life," explained the player.

Whether it was the right thing to do or not, Anelka cannot yet be considered one of the game's true greats. And his old mentor Wenger believes that the player's time at Chelsea is his last chance to stake a claim on truly legendary status.

"I think the mark he will leave on football depends on what he does in the last stage of his career," Wenger stated.

Source: Goal

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