Maverick Frenchman

Nicolas Anelka looks the part and has a fine goal-scoring record. But the much-travelled forward also carries with him a reputation for causing trouble. By Andy Hampson.

Nicolas Anelka is a classy player, blessed with pace and an ability to finish with panache. His qualities are easy to see and it is obvious why several managers have tried to harness his talents, though many have failed. Known as `Le Sulk' for his general attitude both on and off the field, he has been accused of being aloof and over-demanding to managers and selfish to team-mates.

Anelka has played for some of Europe's biggest clubs such as Paris St. Germain, Arsenal, Real Madrid and Liverpool and has also pitched up at Manchester City and Fenerbahce before joining Bolton. Now there are rumours linking the Frenchman with yet another move, this time to Barclays English Premier League champions Manchester United.

Anelka has also had an unsettled time on the international front. He is now back in the frame, but in nine years of playing for France he is still to establish himself due to various disputes with managers.

Anelka was born in Versailles after his parents migrated to France from the Caribbean Island of Martinique. As a young boy his football skills caught the attention of Paris St. Germain and he came through their youth system. He was only 17 when Arsenal's French manager Arsene Wenger paid GBP 500,000 to take him to London. Anelka's subsequent success made that fee a source of friction between the two clubs, particularly when the Gunners sold him to Real Madrid for GBP 23 million three years later.

Anelka established himself as a player with immense potential in 1997-98, his second season at the club. He played a key role as the Gunners won the double of Premier League and FA Cup — he scored in Arsenal's victory over Newcastle in the FA Cup final. Anelka, however, was unlucky to miss out on a place in the France squad for the 1998 World Cup.

Anelka continued to make progress the following season and was named the Professional Footballers' Association Young Player of the Year, but it was then that he first began to prove a handful. He demanded a better salary and his relationship with the club broke down. After a protracted transfer saga, he eventually moved to Madrid.

It was not the career springboard it should have been. Real won the UEFA Champions League in 2000, but Anelka's season was a dismal one, characterised by poor form, a lack of goals and more sulks. After just one year, he was sold back to PSG for GBP 20 million.

Anelka felt the move home would suit him, but he had just one full season there before Liverpool made a surprise move to sign him on loan in December 2001. He made a big impact at Anfield despite scoring just four goals and the club seemed keen to keep him after finishing second in the Premier League. Talks over a deal broke down, however, with Liverpool suggesting the player was demanding too much in wages. PSG eventually sold him to Manchester City for GBP13million.

Anelka found more at home at City and managed to survive two and a half years at the club before eventually growing tired of them and moving to Turkish club Fenerbahce in a GBP 7 million deal. He scored 38 league goals in 89 appearances for City. Anelka won a Turkish league title in 2005 but moved on again in the summer of 2006 when Bolton, paying GBP 8 million, offered a route back to England.

His first season with the Trotters was a reasonable success with 12 goals, but the player has said that even though he wishes to stay, he would not turn down a move to Manchester United.

Anelka has made sporadic appearances for France. He featured at Euro 2000 but was overlooked for three World Cups. He fell out with former manager Jacques Santini when he publicly snubbed a call-up after being selected as an injury replacement.

FACTFILE Name: Nicolas Anelka Position: Striker Club: Bolton D.O.B: 14/03/1979 France Caps: 38 France Goals: 10 France Debut: v Sweden, April 1998 Moment to remember

Due to his many moves and sulks, Anelka does not seem to have lived up to the enormous potential he showed in his youth. Arsenal fans will still vividly remember how good he looked when he struck the second goal of a 2-0 win over Newcastle at Wembley to secure the FA Cup and the `double' in 1998.

Moment to forget

Anelka did not enjoy a happy return to Highbury in March 2004, as Manchester City were beaten 2-1 by Arsenal. He did score City's consolation goal with a powerful strike in injury time but he was sent off moments later after his attempts to pick the ball from the net sparked a melee.

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