The Career Highs and Lows of Nicolas Anelka
A matter of weeks after signing for his sixth Premier League club, West Brom, rumours circulated on Thursday that Nicolas Anelka had cleared his locker at the Baggies' training ground with the intention of quitting the game.
Reports of retirement, however, were premature, as it now appears the Frenchman has been granted indefinite compassionate leave following the death of his agent Eric Manasse, according to the BBC.
With Anelka's future unclear, Bleacher Report invites you to take a look at the career highs and lows of the divisive journeyman striker.
High: Winning the Double with Arsenal
In February 1997, new Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger started a popular trope of importing young French talent by making Paris Saint-Germain's Nicolas Anelka one of his first signings for a fee of £500,000.
When Ian Wright picked up an injury in the 1997-98 season, Anelka was given his big break in the first team, scoring six goals in 26 league starts. His contributions helped The Gunners win the double, giving him his first taste of silverware.
Low: Moving to Real Madrid
A £22.3 million move to Real Madrid to win the Champions League would represent a career highlight for most precocious strikers, but Anelka earned his "Le Sulk" nickname in 1998-99 before moving on in a messy protracted summer saga.
He started well at the Bernabeu but didn't waste much time before falling out with manager Vicente del Bosque, earning a 45-day suspension for missing training sessions. During the furor, he complained to France Football of being "treated like a dog" (h/t CNNSI.com).
He eventually worked his way back into favour, scoring in both legs of Los Blancos' Champions League semifinals with Bayern Munich before lifting the trophy at the final at the Stade de France.
High: Winning Euro 2000
A few weeks after his European Cup success, Anelka played in his first major European tournament, Euro 2000.
Despite scoring plenty in the qualification campaign, he wasn't a regular starter in Roger Lemerre's side at the tournament and didn't find the net at all. Yet he tasted international success as France beat Italy with a golden goal in the final.
Low: Rejoining Paris Saint-Germain
After his season in Spain, Anelka opted to rejoin the club that developed him as a youth prospect: Paris Saint-Germain.
The relationship started well, but the striker's predilection for falling out with managers caused an unrepairable rift with Luis Fernandez, which cast him out of favour and resulted in a loan move to Liverpool.
High: Becoming Manchester City's Top Scorer
Anelka moved to Manchester City for a club-record £13 million in May 2002 and became top scorer in the final season at Maine Road with 14 goals.
In 2003-04, he was even more prolific, finding the net 25 times.
High: Winning the Turkish Süper Lig
In 2005, Anelka made the move to Fenerbahce for a £7 million fee. His first season was a rousing success when he helped Fener to their 16th league title with an average of a goal every third game.
Low: The Champions League Final Penalty Miss
Following a successful stint at Bolton, Anelka continued his tour of the Premier League by signing for Chelsea in January 2008.
He made five appearances for the Blues in the 2007-08 Champions League campaign and was an injury-time substitute in the final against Manchester United.
The Frenchman was the seventh and final penalty taker in the shootout, but he was distracted by goalkeeper Edwin van der Saar, who pointed to his left but correctly dived to the right to make the European Cup-winning save.
According to The Guardian, he later blamed the devastating miss on manager Avram Grant, who apparently hadn't given him an adequate warm-up to kick a dead ball from 12 yards.
High: Winning the Premier League with Chelsea
Anelka bounced back from his Champions League disappointment in 2008-09 with some spectacular form for Chelsea, which continued into the following season thanks to his formidable partnership with Didier Drogba.
On May 9, 2010, Anelka scored two goals in an 8-0 drubbing of Wigan, helping Carlo Ancelotti's Blues seal the Premier League title for the first time in four years.
A week later, he completed his second English double by helping Chelsea defeat Portsmouth in the FA Cup final.
Low: The 2010 World Cup Debacle
The 2010 World Cup isn't a particularly fond memory for the French.
After reportedly verbally abusing coach Raymond Domenech at half-time of a group-stage defeat to Mexico (his exact words are very rude and republished on the front page of L'Equipe, above), Anelka was sent home and refused to apologise for his actions.
The farce continued the following day as his teammates refused to train in protest of his exclusion. Le Sulk had effectively led a mutiny and was banned for 18 matches, ending his international career.
High: Winning the Scudetto with Juventus
Following a doomed spell in China with Shanghai Shenhua—where he was made a coach before alienating himself by refusing a customary bow with his teammates after a game—Anelka agreed to a five-month deal with Juventus in January 2013.
Despite playing just three matches, all of which were substitute appearances, the Frenchman collected his fourth domestic title when the Old Lady earned what they consider to be their 31st Scudetto.