West Brom manager Steve Clarke has admitted that Nicolas Anelka has considered retiring from football following the death of his agent and close friend Eric Manasse, but the Scot hopes he will choose to return the club once he has “got his head clear”.
Manasse passed away over the weekend, with Anelka learning the tragic news on Thursday. Having spoken to West Brom’s technical director Richard Garlick and Clarke about the matter, and it was decided that the best action was to grant Anelka indefinite compassionate leave until he had made his mind up over his future.
Speaking at a press conference ahead of their trip to Everton this weekend, Clarke said: "Obviously Nicolas lost a close friend and an agent over the weekend - he died suddenly. Nicolas went to Richard (Garlick) on Thursday and indicated that he wasn't in a good place.
"I went in and had a very brief chat with him, and he wasn't in a good place. So the club have decided just to give him a bit of time to go away and think about it and get himself in a better place for the future.
"Really, that is as much as there is to tell on the situation - it wasn't dramatic, there was no big bust-up, he didn't storm out of the training ground. It is just a boy who is really quite upset."
Clarke also admitted that the striker had mentioned retirement, saying: "I'm not going to deny that he used that word in the conversations we had with him. But we've given him time to go away and think about it and I don't think we could do any more in the circumstances as they were."
"He was down, really down. He was actually injured. He hadn't trained with us this week, so I was preparing the team for Everton without Nicolas in it anyway - he got a kick against Southampton."
But Clarke remains hopeful that the Frenchman, who joined the club on a free transfer in the summer after a loan-deal with Juventus and spell at Chinese club Shanghai Shenhua, will choose to return to the club once he has weighed up his options.
"Once he gets his head clear and we can sit down and have a proper chat, yeah, sure. But at the moment this (the decision to grant Anelka compassionate leave) is the best course of action for both Nicolas and the club."
Clarke didn’t know what Anelka may decide though, admitting: "I don't know, because from the conversation we had the other day, it was really negative. But as I said, we have given him time to think about it. So I'd like to think he could play for West Bromwich Albion again."
Anelka took to his official Facebook page to express his grief over the passing of Manasse.
He wrote: "It is with great sadness that I just learned the death of Mr Eric Manasse. Upset by the news of mourning which strikes his family and relatives, Eric will leave a great void in our lives.
"I can't find the words to express my immense sorrow, and I wanted to bring all my condolences to family Manasse after this tragic loss."
Anelka had signed a one-year deal with the Baggies with the option of a second, and the much travelled forward has also played for Arsenal, Manchetser City, Bolton, Liverpool and Chelsea in the Premier League, while also playing for Real Madrid, Fenerbahce and Paris Saint-Germain in Europe.