Big Sam and the 'big sulk': what will Anelka make of life at Bolton?

Sam Allardyce has built his managerial reputation on rescuing players' careers but faces a challenge with the wayward French striker, writes Phil Shaw

From sulky to greedy via brilliant and petulant, Nicolas Anelka has been called many things during a decade on football's front line. Sam Allardyce welcomed Bolton Wanderers' £8m record signing yesterday by claiming he was "born to score goals", although it was another of the many managers who believed they could be the one to exploit the Frenchman's undoubted ability who best summed up the enigma that is Anelka.

When he was in charge of Manchester City, Kevin Keegan remarked that the £13m he paid Paris St- Germain in 2002 for his services meant City had acquired "a Rolls-Royce of a striker". Anelka's career path, strewn with controversy and rancour as well as a handsome haul of goals and some £71m in transfer fees, ensured that more than one cynic wondered whether the former England manager was suggesting his new signing was expensive and required a high level of maintenance.

Allardyce has a proven record of rescuing waning careers and of rehabilitating players who have not fulfilled their potential, as demonstrated by the performances of Jay-Jay Okocha and Ivan Campo in the first category and Kevin Davies in the second. By buying Anelka from the Turkish side Fenerbahce he would appear, at a stroke, to have changed the complexion of Bolton's much-criticised playing style. A team that essentially unleashed long balls for Davies to hold up and lay off to supporting midfielders are now armed with a sprint-and-shoot finisher.

Yet it has never simply been a question of talent where Anelka is concerned. If it were, he might well have stayed at Arsenal, broken Ian Wright's scoring record and been next in line for a testimonial after the creator of many of his goals at Highbury, Dennis Bergkamp.

The 27-year-old from Versailles is a restless spirit, seldom satisfied with his lot, frequently sensing that the grass may be greener elsewhere and often being poorly advised by his older brothers, who have acted as his agents.

No such complications were on the horizon when Arsène Wenger lured him, at 17, from Paris St-Germain to Arsenal in the spring of 1997. His prodigious pace soon became a weapon in the Gunners' artillery. If played in behind the defence, Anelka was virtually uncatchable and he had the confidence to surprise goalkeepers and defenders by taking his shots early.

Two well-taken goals for France against England at Wembley early in 1999 proved a turning point for him. Although he had recently signed a four-year contract at Arsenal - as he has at the Reebok Stadium - he began agitating for a transfer. He said that he felt unappreciated but later maintained he accepted a £22m move to Real Madrid because it was "always my dream" to play for them since he was "a little boy in the streets of Paris".

Anelka's version of the souring of his dream hinged on a change of coach, from John Toshack to Vicente del Bosque. After scoring only four times for Real in 29 games, which included the European Cup final victory over Valencia in Paris in 2000, he returned to Paris St-Germain. The comeback lasted a season, Anelka later admitting his relationship with the coach, Luis Fernandez, was "not as amiable as it should have been."

A year's loan at Liverpool, where he replaced Robbie Fowler, did not lead to an offer from his compatriot Gérard Houllier. Keegan paid £13m to take him to City, a move that could be deemed a success since it produced 46 goals in 103 appearances. While he was in Manchester his brother Claude briefly owned, and unsuccessfully managed, Raith Rovers in Scotland.

However, in January last year Anelka decamped to Fenerbahce, where he was a qualified success, keeping up his scoring feats but being unable to help them regain the title. When he went to Istanbul he had not been picked for France in three years, having added Jacques Santini to the list of managers with whom he fell out.

Raymond Domenech recalled him last autumn but, perhaps tellingly, overlooked him for this summer's World Cup even after Djibril Cissé was injured on the eve of the finals.

When he left Arsenal, saying the English could "go to hell", Wenger called him "not bad, just young". Yesterday, on his latest return, Anelka observed pointedly: "People who say I'm a bad boy don't know me". Allardyce is already referring to him chummily as "Nic", although Anelka actually became Abdul-Salam Bilal on converting to Islam four years ago.

At Bolton they will not mind which name he uses, or what religion he pursues, provided he justifies his billing. Anelka, enthused Allardyce, had "an awesome track record in the Premiership", making it the "smallest gamble" he had taken. But a gamble, none the less, given the enigma's other track record.

The £71m striker: Nicolas Anelka's chequered career

Paris St-Germain (1994-97) Trainee Games 10 Goals 1

Arsenal (1997-99) £500,000 Games 90 Goals 28

Real Madrid (1999-00) £22m Games 24 Goals 4

Paris St-Germain (2000-02) £20.29m Games 50 Goals 15

Liverpool (2001-02) Loan Games 22 Goals 5

Manchester City (2002-05) £13m Games 103 Goals 46

Fenerbahçe (2005-2006) £7m Games 45 Goals 14

Bolton (2006- ) £8m

Total: £70.79m Games 344 Goals 113

In total, Anelka is the second most expensive player in football history. Only Juan Sebastian Veron tops him:

Boca Juniors to Sampdoria (1996) £3m

Sampdoria to Parma (1998) £13m

Parma to Lazio (1999) £18.1m

Lazio to Man Utd (2001) £28.1m

Man Utd to Chelsea (2003) £15m

Chelsea to Internazionale (2004) Undisc.

Total: £77.2m

News
i100
News
people Emma Watson addresses celebrity nude photo leak
News
Katie Hopkins appearing on 'This Morning' after she purposefully put on 4 stone.
peopleKatie Hopkins breaks down in tears over weight gain challenge
News
peopleHis band Survivor was due to resume touring this month
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Robert De Niro, Martin Scorsese and DiCaprio, at an awards show in 2010
filmsDe Niro, DiCaprio and Pitt to star
News
i100
News
In this photo illustration a school student eats a hamburger as part of his lunch which was brought from a fast food shop near his school, on October 5, 2005 in London, England. The British government has announced plans to remove junk food from school lunches. From September 2006, food that is high in fat, sugar or salt will be banned from meals and removed from vending machines in schools across England. The move comes in response to a campaign by celebrity TV chef Jamie Oliver to improve school meals.
science
Life and Style
Red or dead: An actor portrays Hungarian countess Elizabeth Báthory, rumoured to have bathed in blood to keep youthful
health
Arts and Entertainment
James Dean on the set of 'Rebel without a Cause', 1955
photographyHe brought documentary photojournalism to Tinseltown, and in doing so, changed the way film stars would be portrayed for ever
News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Life and Style
fashionModel of the moment shoots for first time with catwalk veteran
News
i100
Sport
Tom Cleverley
footballLoan move comes 17 hours after close of transfer window
Sport
Alexis Sanchez, Radamel Falcao, Diego Costa and Mario Balotelli
footballRadamel Falcao and Diego Costa head record £835m influx
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Chief inspector of GPs: ‘Most doctors don’t really know what bad practice can be like for patients’

Steve Field: ‘Most doctors don’t really know what bad practice can be like for patients’

The man charged with inspecting doctors explains why he may not be welcome in every surgery
Stolen youth: Younger blood can reverse many of the effects of ageing

Stolen youth

Younger blood can reverse many of the effects of ageing
Bob Willoughby: Hollywood's first behind the scenes photographer

Bob Willoughby: The reel deal

He was the photographer who brought documentary photojournalism to Hollywood, changing the way film stars would be portrayed for ever
Hollywood heavyweights produce world's most expensive corporate video - for Macau casino

Hollywood heavyweights produce world's most expensive corporate video - for Macau casino

Scorsese in the director's chair with De Niro, DiCaprio and Pitt to star
Angelina Jolie's wedding dress: made by Versace, designed by her children

Made by Versace, designed by her children

Angelina Jolie's wedding dressed revealed
Anyone for pulled chicken?

Pulling chicks

Pulled pork has gone from being a US barbecue secret to a regular on supermarket shelves. Now KFC is trying to tempt us with a chicken version
9 best steam generator irons

9 best steam generator irons

To get through your ironing as swiftly as possible, invest in one of these efficient gadgets
'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing