Anelka must apologise, says France coach

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The Independent Football

The French coach, Jacques Santini, has warned Nicolas Anelka that he has no future in the national team until he apologises for refusing a call-up last year.

Many believe that Anelka would be a more than suitable replacement for the striker Djibril Cissé, who is likely to miss Euro 2004 after receiving a five-match suspension following his sending-off in an European Under-21 Championship qualifier against Portugal.

There have been calls for Santini to forgive and forget the manner in which Anelka declined a late invitation to play against Serbia and Montenegro in November 2002.

At the time the Manchester City forward claimed he felt unwanted by Santini, and declared: "It looks to me as if my selection was a little forced, as if I was a stopgap. I need to feel appreciated and really wanted if I am to give my best."

However, he seems interested in returning to the team and recently told a French television programme that international football remained high on his agenda, and on merit Anelka would be an ideal replacement for Cissé.

"I have not closed the door to Les Bleus yet," Anelka said. But it seems that Santini is not so easily convinced. "He [Anelka] sidelined himself from the national team by refusing a cap," the coach said. "He lacked respect towards the French Football Federation and the national side. As long as he has not publicly apologised for his attitude and his words, it will be impossible for me to call him up ever again."

Cissé is clinging on to the hope that he might yet be able to feature at Euro 2004. The terms of his ban dictate that he must miss France's next five competitive internationals, and because he is now too old to play for the Under-21 team, it must be served at senior level.

Should France reach the Euro 2004 final, then he would be eligible to play, but would take no part in the three group games - including the opener against England - the quarter-finals and the semi-finals.