When Didier Drogba returns from the African Nations Cup he will find Nicolas Anelka in the Chelsea dressing room, ready to offer some hard-earned advice. Drogba is being linked, again, with a move to Spain or Italy but Anelka will tell him: "The grass is not greener away from England. Take it from me, I've looked."
Anelka, it appears, is not just misunderstood, he is an Anglophile. While he does not regret leaving Arsenal all those years ago, he admits he has spent the rest of his career trying to recapture that stage.
He almost did once, at Liverpool, but Gérard Houllier decided not to turn a loan into a permanent transfer. So he went wandering, to Manchester City, Fenerbache and Bolton, finally pitching up at Stamford Bridge this month. He is back in the upper echelons of the English game, older, and definitely wiser.
"I don't regret leaving Arsenal," he said. "When Real Madrid come it is difficult to say no. I did what I had to do and I'm just happy because I won the Champions League there. So I have no regrets, but when Didier comes back I will speak with him. I know about leaving here to play in a different country. I did it. Now I know that English football and the Premier League is the best and I will tell him to stay here because he will not find anywhere else what he has in Chelsea."
In particular, said Anelka: "I like the way players live in England. In Spain you can't do anything, if you drive everyone recognises you, at a restaurant you have paparazzi outside. When I got there I knew I could not stay long. So I tried to come back to a big club. I did, to Liverpool, but they did not sign me, so after that I was chasing a good club, a big club. That's why I moved and I moved and I moved, and now I am here. If I had signed for a big club before, I would not have moved like I did. If I could have stayed in a big club and played Champions League every year I could have been a much better player than now.
"I don't know if Didier will regret it if he leaves, but he's nearly 30. If he wants to come back it will be very difficult. I did it when I was 20. So I could come back."
It still took Anelka eight years to return to a "big club". Why so long? "I think it was not my football, it was what people were saying about my character. I think that is wrong. If you ask all the players who have played with me they will never say anything wrong about me."
Martin Keown did write in glowing terms about Anelka recently, but it would be an exaggeration to suggest he was universally liked at his former clubs. The striker added: "My reputation for sulking is unfair. I am more shy than people think. I do not like to speak too much, so maybe that's why people thought I was arrogant. At Arsenal I was very young and I did not speak very good English so it was difficult for me. Sometimes in football you're happy and sometimes you're unhappy, people must have seen me when I was unhappy."
There is a wistfulness about Anelka when he talks about Arsenal. Arsène Wenger has suggested Anelka wanted to return to Arsenal in the summer and Anelka appeared to confirm that when he said: "Arsenal is a good team and a good club. It would have been good to go there, but it never happened. Today I am just looking forward. Arsenal is in the past."
Chelsea is Anelka's future, at least for now, and the Frenchman said: "My ambition here is to win the Champions League and the title because it is the biggest for Chelsea, for me also it would be beautiful. We are in the race for all trophies this season and we will try to win everything."
If Anelka succeeds with either aim he will be forgiven his hankering for that other club in north London.Reuse content