Nicolas Anelka: French football’s 'enfant terrible'
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Nicolas Anelka left France’s foundering World Cup campaign Saturday after an alleged bust-up with coach Raymond Domenech. France 24 takes a look at Les Bleus’s fraught relationship with the “enfant terrible” of French football.
The FIFA World Cup in South Africa marked French striker Nicolas Anelka’s first appearance at football’s biggest party. It also appears to have been his last. Aged 31, the Chelsea striker was thrown out of the French squad on Saturday after reportedly insulting the coach, Raymond Domenech.
The alleged crude insults delivered at half-time of the match against Mexico who would go on to embarrass France 2-0 – made headlines in France and brought Anelka’s already brief World Cup story to an abrupt end.
But the blusterous departure was fitting for a player who had become a favourite target of French sports media in the run-up to the World Cup. The Chelsea striker was criticised for his passivity, defiance of coaching instructions and selfishness.
Ironically, the only person willing to defend him – until now – was Domenech himself. The French coach was blasted for favouring Anelka as the starting striker of les Bleus over veteran Thierry Henry, or even substitute forwards Pierre-André Gignac and Djibril Cissé.
"I do not need the French squad"
While his individual talent is undeniable, Anelka has repeatedly failed to win over the hearts of his compatriots. His reputation as the enfant terrible of French football and his unsociable character kept him from being picked during the three previous World Cups.
Although Anelka seems to have mellowed out during the last few years, unsavoury remarks litter his relationship with Domenech’s predecessors. In August 2003, the French weekly Paris Match reported that after former France manager Jacques Santini rejected Anelka for the national team, Anelka spat back: “I do not need the French squad, If he kneels before me and apologizes, then I’ll think about it.”
On May 11, 2010, when Anelka was included in Domenech’s preliminary 30-player squad for South Africa, the Chelsea striker promptly said: “I have never set the goal for my life, for my career to be in a World Cup". In the end, that achievement lasted but 135 minutes.