Thursday was not your ordinary day at West Brom’s training ground as Nicolas Anelka walked out of training after hearing of the death of one of his agents. Eric Manasse, the agent that passed away, had worked with Anelka throughout his long career and helped with his move to West Brom. Anelka was in a distraught state when he arrived at training and eventually cleared out his locker at the team’s training ground. Anelka has now been granted compassionate leave by West Brom but his future at the club is in doubt.
Anelka past and present
Anelka has had a long and interesting career playing for 11 different teams in his 17 year career. Anelka started his career at PSG coming through their youth system and breaking into the first team at age 16. After a year in the first team, Anelka was sold to Arsenal for £500,000 fee at the age of 17, he was one of Arsene Wenger’s first buys as Arsenal manager. Anelka broke into the first team after Ian Wright went down with an injury and became a prominent member of the Arsenal first team until he asked for a move away in 1999 and made a £22.3m move to Real Madrid. He spent one season at Madrid before moving back to PSG for £22m. After two seasons back in Paris, Anelka was loaned out to Liverpool in December 2001 but Liverpool decided not to make the move permanent and in the summer of 2002 Anelka joined Manchester City for £12m. After making 89 Premier League appearances with Manchester City in two and a half seasons, Anelka moved to Fenerbahce for £7m. Anelka helped the team win the Turkish League and get them into the Champions League but after another season and a half he moved from Fenerbahce back to the Premier League with Bolton for £8m.
After another season and a half at Bolton, Anelka made a £15m move to Chelsea, where he had his most successful spell of his career. At Chelsea, Anelka won the Premier League in 2009-2010, the F.A cup in both 2008-2009 and 2009- 2010, and won the Premier League golden boot in 2008-2009. Anelka moved away from Chelsea on a free to Shanghai Shenhua after getting a lack of playing time under Andre Villas-Boas. After about 12 months in Shanghai, Anelka moved to Juventus on loan for the rest of the 2012-2013 season but only made three appearances with the Italian Champions. After all of that, Anelka moved to West Brom on a free transfer in 2013.
Lack of Replacement Choices
Anelka was brought in by Steve Clarke to try and fill the hole left by Romelu Lukaku returning to Chelsea. Lukaku’s production was a big part of West Brom finishing so high in the table scoring 17 goals and scoring every 118 minutes. Anelka was brought in to try to replicate the roll of Lukaku being the big striker sometimes coming off the bench to change the game. Anelka may or may not come back to the team but if he does not, they will need to replace him. At the moment, West Brom have three other strikers on their roster, Shane Long, Markus Rosenberg, and Matej Vydra. Long and Vydra are smaller strikers than Anelka but they can still produce. Long has been with West Brom for two seasons scoring eight goals in his first and eight in his second. Vydra is on loan at West Brom from Udinese and has never played in the Premier League before. Vydra was on loan at Watford in the Championship last year scoring 20 goals in 41 games. West Brom will hope he can score at a similar rate. Markus Rosenberg is a bigger striker but did not score for West Brom all year last year. West Brom will need someone to step up since they don’t get too many goals from other places on the pitch, 60% of their goals last year were from strikers. West Brom had four strikers score last year but three of them are no longer with West Brom meaning Anelka coming back would be a huge boost to the team.
The entire situation with Anelka has been strange, to say the least. We will see if he comes back to West Brom or if he decides to retire from football but if he does decide to retire it would be a big blow to Steve Clarke’s side. They are already trying to replace Lukaku now they would have to replace Lukaku’s replacement.