Friday, January 11, 2008

Anelka and Chelsea may be perfect fit

Nicolas Anelka's move to Chelsea provides the perfect stage for this enigmatic, but hugely gifted, striker to give his career a final flourish.

The 28-year-old has been called many things in his nomadic career, but he has never been called anything less than a quality player.

And as someone who has commanded around £85m in transfer fees, he is always in demand. It easy to see why.

Anelka is blessed with pace and an eye for goals of any size and shape - but there is always a question mark. Never over his ability, but over his personality and an apparent reluctance to settle in one place for too long.

He is still saddled with the tag of "Le Sulk", first inflicted when he left Arsenal in August 1999 to join Real Madrid in a £23m deal.

Arsene Wenger unearthed the gem from Paris St Germain, and got some brilliant performances during an all-too-brief stay at Highbury.

Anelka was not a qualified success with Real or PSG - but the charge that he was a failure during a loan spell at Liverpool is a myth.

He was the model pro at Anfield, scored goals and was never a moment's trouble. Indeed, it was a pivotal moment in Gerard Houllier's reign when he ditched plans to sign Anelka and bought the dreadful El-Hadji Diouf instead.

Anelka was also a success at Manchester City, and despite a messy departure, he would have been welcomed back with open arms by the majority had Sven-Goran Eriksson made a move.

He has been a hit at Bolton, leaving with nothing but praise from manager Gary Megson.

Chelsea have bought a proven talent, now it will be a test of boss Avram Grant to get him playing to his best and then keeping him at Stamford Bridge.

At 28, this could be Anelka's last chance to add more major trophies to his collection.

It will be intriguing to see how his role plays out at Stamford Bridge. Will he partner Didier Drogba or ultimately replace him?

Grant has no problems at present with Drogba with the Ivory Coast at the Africa Cup of Nations.

Drogba is the master of playing alone up front, although he is also world-class in a partnership. If he plays alongside Anelka, it has the potential to be explosive.

But how long would any such partnership last? Drogba is still being linked with a move abroad, with talk of a reunion with Jose Mourinho at AC Milan being touted.

This is for the future - for now Chelsea have signed a class act, for all the supposed baggage he brings with him.

Anelka has been an outstanding operator for a decade, and now he has been presented with a golden opportunity to round off his time at the top in style.

If he can, Chelsea have every chance of forcing their way in among the major trophies at the end of the season.

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