Nicolas Anelka Is His Own Worst Enemy

Ryan Bailey@ryanjaybaileyFeatured ColumnistJanuary 22, 2014

FILE - This Saturday Dec. 28, 2013 file photo shows West Bromwich Albion's Nicolas Anelka, right, as he gestures to celebrate his goal against West Ham United during their English Premier League soccer match at Upton Park, London. West Bromwich Albion striker Nicolas Anelka was charged by the English Football Association on Tuesday Jan 21, 2014 for performing a racially aggravated gesture considered to be anti-Semitic while celebrating a Premier League goal. The gesture, which is known in France as a
Sang Tan/Associated Press

The latest chapter in Nicolas Anelka's weighty tome of career disgraces is entitled "The Quenelle." It is a pretty difficult read. 

As you will probably know, the Frenchman has evoked controversy and ire for a controversial celebration performed during West Brom's highly entertaining 3-3 draw with West Ham in December. Anelka's friend, comedian Dieudonne M'bala M’bala, will tell you the gesture is the equivalent of saying "up yours." Anti-racism groups, however, will disagree, pointing out the antisemitic connotations of what appears to be an inverted Nazi salute.

According to The Guardian, the FA's findings on the incident have been published in a 34-page document, with the journeyman striker staring down the barrel of a ban that will last a minimum of five games.

Around 99 per cent of the FA's cases are subsequently proven, but Anelka will have the right to contest the charges—even if West Brom are refusing to let him use their legal counsel to do so. 

The 34-year-old responded to the FA on Wednesday, requesting via a post on Facebook that the FA removes the charges against him. "I am not an antisemite or racist," ends the post written in French. 

The jury is still out on the closing sentence of Anelka's post, but one thing has been confirmed: He is a man who cannot keep away from controversy and who utterly refuses to apologise when his actions have negative consequences.

When it comes to creating headlines for the wrong reason, this isn't Anelka's first rodeo.

Scott Heppell/Associated Press

In a 17-year career in which he won the double with Arsenal, a Champions League at Real Madrid and a Euro 2000 medal with the French national team, the man nicknamed "Le Sulk" is better known for his inability to get on with a manager, grumpiness and general disruptive nature.

At the Bernabeu, he fell out with Vicente del Bosque and earned a 45-day suspension for missing training. He complained of being "treated like a dog."  

His second spell at Paris Saint-Germain only lasted a matter of months before he bickered with coach Luis Fernandez and found himself cast out on loan to Liverpool. He then failed to secure a permanent contract with Liverpool for failing to see eye to eye with Gerard Houllier

During his spell at Chelsea between 2008 and 2012—the longest he has ever spent at any single club—he was banned from the club Christmas party and training ground car park after quarrelling with Andre Villas-Boas

And lest we forget the debacle of France's 2010 World Cup campaign, when Anelka refused to apologise for verbally abusing coach Raymond Domenech in the dressing room. He was sent home and nearly sparked a mutiny when his teammates refused to train in protest. 

Are you noticing a pattern?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 26:  Nicolas Anelka of Chelsea reacts to missing a penalty during the Carling Cup Fourth Round match between Everton and Chelsea at Goodison Park on October 26, 2011 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images
Michael Regan/Getty Images

Anelka has played for 12 clubs in his career, which says a lot more about his complete inability to accept authority and apologise for his own abhorrent behaviour than it does his usefulness as a journeyman striker.

The Frenchman may believe he is a victim to circumstance and the world is out to get him, but he is the common denominator is a career pockmarked by embarrassing behaviour. He is his own worst enemy.  

Anelka is one of the most gifted footballers of his generation. He can split apart any given defence on his day. What a shame that this talent is overshadowed by a perpetual victim who is unable to see the shortcomings of his own character.

This is a man so stubborn that he was alienated at Shanghai Shenhua simply for refusing a customary post-match bow. This is a man so arrogant and conceited that he blamed his 2008 Champions League Final penalty miss on manager Avram Grant, who did not give him enough time to warm up to kick a ball from 12 yards. 

20 Sep 1998:  Roy Keane of Manchester United challenges Nicolas Anelka of Arsenal during the FA Carling Premiership match at Highbury in London. Arsenal won 3-0. \ Mandatory Credit: Clive Brunskill /Allsport
Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Even in the unlikely event that the FA acquiesce to his demand to drop the charges of his most recent disgrace, it looks as if the curtains are being drawn on his time at his sixth Premier League club.

Sky Sports say shirt sponsors Zoopla are allegedly finishing their deal with the Baggies in light of his behaviour (or perhaps the club's support of him), and The Guardian claim two more sponsors are thinking of dropping out. 

At the risk of upsetting the harmony in their organisations, many clubs have offered Anelka a contract in the past decade or so, based solely on his abilities. But at 34 years old, time is running out for him to redeem himself at a 13th club. 

Follow Ryan Bailey on Twitter