Anelka happy to be finally 'understood' at Chelsea

Much-travelled French striker wants to extend his contract at Stamford Bridge
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The Independent Football

Nicolas Anelka would love to extend his time at Chelsea until 2014 before heading abroad again. The 30-year-old striker still has around 18 months left on his current contract with the Premier League club but talks over a new deal have been mooted. Anelka, who has never spent more than two-and-a-half years at any club, insists he wants to see out his best days at Stamford Bridge.

"I would love to sign for another three further years," Anelka said before last night's match with Portsmouth. "I still have one year left. I see myself playing here until I'm 34. And that would not be the end of my career.

"Afterwards I don't know. I could go to the Middle East, to Qatar, Abu Dhabi or the United States. I don't know. I have often been criticised for changing clubs. At the same time, it's good to experience different things, whether it's in Turkey or Spain. Everywhere has enriched me. It's a mentality different to that in France."

Anelka, who has played in France, England, Spain and Turkey, admits a move to the Middle East or America would be little more than a money-spinning end to his career.

"I wouldn't be going to Qatar to play in the Champions League," he added. "In any case that doesn't exist. It [the money] is the truth."

Anelka is enjoying a new lease of life under Carlo Ancelotti, who was installed as Chelsea manager in the summer and seems to have cracked the code on how to best utilise Didier Drogba with the France international.

"In a way I have never felt as strong on the pitch," Anelka said. "When I was asked to play as an out-and-out striker, you never saw me doing what I'm doing now.

"That's why I always wanted to play behind the striker. Showing what I can do other than score goals. I've rarely had the chance to do that. When I signed for Chelsea I absolutely wanted to play with Didier up front. From the first year they put us in competition. But to play both of us together is the best solution and Ancelotti has understood that well, and me, playing freely, well it's extraordinary. The fact that my football has been understood allows me to be happy in life. I know that I am understood."

While Anelka is thriving in club football like never before, France are struggling. Les Bleus qualified for next summer's World Cup finals in South Africa by the skin of their teeth and the pressure on Raymond Domenech has reached boiling point. But Anelka has leapt to the defence of his coach, claiming he is even better than Aimé Jacquet who led France to the World Cup in 1998.

"I've never been able to talk like this before with a France coach," he said. "Before, there was [Jacques] Santini – it was impossible to talk to him. [Roger] Lemerre, likewise. Jacquet? Impossible too.

"Despite what people say, it's with Domenech that I have the best relationship. Things change quickly – today he is the hated figure, like Aimé Jacquet in his time. Now, Jacquet is the king. Because he won a World Cup.

"Everything can change quickly. You just have to be patient, be strong mentally. And he's patient.

"Maybe in six months he will be the 'Boss' and no-one can insult him," Anelka added.

France only reached the finals with a controversial play-off victory over the Republic of Ireland, courtesy of a Thierry Henry handball setting up the decisive goal for William Gallas. They have been roundly criticised across the globe and in France itself but Anelka believes now is the time to put that incident behind them.

The former Paris St-Germain forward has urged the French people to get fully behind them. "We have never felt supported," he said. "That's why we're always in a rage. You mustn't think that we don't know when we play badly. After the return match against Ireland, myself, [Patrice] Evra and Titi [Henry] said: 'We were lousy.'

"All that should be considered now is that France are qualified. If it [the handball] had happened against us, we would have started crying. But no, this year, we're not crying. We're going there. Now, we're going there to win," Anelka claimed. "There are some people who will laugh at that, but in our heads we can do it."