From Real to Raith: how the other Anelka changed his life

The elder brother of Nicolas tells <i>Nick Harris</i> why he swapped his life as a high-flying agent to become the manager of a small Scottish club
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The last time that David Dein was trying to prevent one of Arsenal's brilliant French footballers from joining Real Madrid, he portrayed Claude Anelka as representing just about everything that was wrong with modern football.

The last time that David Dein was trying to prevent one of Arsenal's brilliant French footballers from joining Real Madrid, he portrayed Claude Anelka as representing just about everything that was wrong with modern football.

Claude is the elder brother of Nicolas Anelka, and back in 1999 was the Highbury prodigy's agent as well. Over an acrimonious summer Dein described the Frenchman's behaviour as "wrong, illegal and immoral", spoke of "bad agents, who regard players as a lump of meat" and there were even reports of fisticuffs.

In the end Anelka joined the Spanish giants, and today the Arsenal vice-chairman is fighting to keep Patrick Vieira from making the same journey.

But if Dein's life has a familiar feel to it, Claude Anelka's could not be more different. In one of the most extraordinary turn-ups of a summer full of surprises, Anelka was appointed manager of Raith Rovers in the Scottish First Division, and today takes charge of his first competitive match.

Then again Anelka Snr is full of surprises. Now 35, he is engaging and softly-spoken, with a slight jockey's frame.

He is very much in charge at Raith's Stark's Park, and passionately believes he will be so for the long haul, with dreams of a pioneering academy in Kirkcaldy based on France's Clairefontaine model.

"My aim is to get promoted as soon as possible," he says. "I don't know when. As soon as we go up, start to build a youth academy, develop a youth team because we can't compete against Celtic and Rangers [in the transfer market].

"The only way to compete is to have a good chief scout to try to pick up good players around the world and to develop our own academy. When the players are good enough, they are to play, and after that we sell them."

If Anelka is a bruiser, there is no evidence of it around Raith's hilltop stadium (average attendance 2,000), where inclusiveness and equality are the new buzzwords, and where the season starts today with a Scottish League Challenge Cup game against Albion. And to listen to him expound his "football philosophy", you would be hard pressed to deny that he, at least, believes in what he can achieve.

"I was not happy," he says of his role as Nicolas's full-time agent and gofer, a position he relinquished two years ago. "I need to work, to be busy, and you're not busy as an agent. It's just a few phone calls, faxes. I wanted to live not just through my brother but do my own thing, what my heart was saying.

"I was trying to find myself. And I found exactly what I wanted to do. I was fed up to see managers do so many crazy things, spending money, the way they play. I said: 'I can do that job, let's do it'."

Anelka was once a player himself, a striker for Paris FC. Anelka later coached 12- to 18-year-olds at another Paris non-league club, Choisy-le-Roi.

"I started my coaching badges 10 years ago but I stopped the last one when Nicolas wanted to go to Arsenal. I stopped everything for him because he was 17. I couldn't leave him alone by himself in London so I said: 'OK, I'll drop everything'."

If you asked David Dein what Claude dropped, he would probably say bombshells, like telling Dein his brother wanted to move five years ago. Dein's view was that the Anelkas screwed his club. The Anelka view is Arsenal undervalued Nicolas.

Further, they felt that Nicolas was justified in wanting to leave for Madrid, where he was more likely to win European silverware, than stay at Highbury, where the 1998-99 season ended without trophies. For all the trouble that the youngest Anelka experienced in Spain - a falling out with Vicente Del Bosque in an episode where his brothers Claude and Didier were again painted as puppeteers - he still lifted the European Cup in 2000.

Dein's complaint that Arsenal were cheated always had a hollow ring. His club made £22.5m profit on a player they had poached from Paris St-Germain as a teenager.

Only in the last two years, "post-Nicolas", has Claude begun establishing an independent career, studying management in the widest sense, and honing his dream of taking hands-on control of a football club. He thought a British club would be out of the question, "because of my history, because of my brother", but was persuaded to try anyway. "I met some people and they believe in my philosophy and they said to me: 'Claude, we are behind you, let's go to find a club, you be the manager, we'll invest the money and we'll see what happens'."

The identity of these "people" is unknown. Anelka says they want to remain anonymous. The bottom line is that he had a six-figure sum to offer to any club who would make him manager in exchange for his investment. He had talks with Queen's Park Rangers and Barnet that came to nothing. He heard about Raith, who have been in a perilous financial situation for years, in March. In mid-May he was announced as the manager.

Raith's chairman, Turnbull Hutton, is candid about the deal. "No one puts money into the First Division in Scotland," he says. "So when someone comes along offering to invest, you have to do what's best for the club. The price is that Claude wanted hands-on control. We're gambling that the investment will pay off in the longer term."

Hutton says he does not know the identity of Claude's backers. "You know, it's crossed my mind that it's Nicolas Anelka's money. It could be. It could be Claude's and you'd understand if that was the case why maybe he wouldn't say so, because it would look like him buying his job. But it's in the bank, that's what matters."

The investment is understood to be £320,000, staggered over more than one season. Anelka's housing and expenses will be covered by Raith but no salary will be drawn from the money he has provided. "I prefer to do this, earn less money, than doing the job I was doing before," he says.

So what of Claude's football philosophy? Which teams does he use as inspiration? "Barcelona with Cruyff as manager, Nantes with Jean-Claude Suaudeau [instrumental in the careers of Didier Deschamps, Claude Makelele and Marcel Desailly], Arsenal with Wenger."

His resources are considerably more mundane then Wenger's, with amateurs from France, Slovakia and Scotland making up the majority of his dozen or so summer recruits. They have come in, Anelka says, because in the short-term he needs players he knows.

Pre-season results have been mixed. Proof of the pudding will come when the real action starts but Anelka says he has learned huge amounts from his best friend, Patrice Gouty, a nightclub manager formerly in charge of China White in London, and from Tony Robbins, an American motivational speaker.

"I was amazed every time I went to China White how much everybody loved Patrice," he said. "Everybody. From the lowest rung of the ladder to the very top, they told me he treated everyone fair, the same, equal. He talked to everyone like they were important."

So how does that translate to football? "You're here to make your employees better. If I see a weakness, we practise it the next day. It's about improving skills, communicating. If everybody is better, everything is better, because the mentality is better, you're successful. The manager is not the star. The players are the stars. So you have to make them progress to make the team better. I talk a lot with the players, a lot, a lot, a lot."

Robbins is a 6ft 7in guru whose catchphrase is "strategies for creating an extraordinary life" and who claims to have "met with, consulted or advised" the likes of Nelson Mandela, Mikhail Gorbachev, Margaret Thatcher, Princess Diana and Mother Theresa. "I did some courses with him," Anelka said. "Beforehand I was saying 'I'm not going to do that, it's not for me.' But when you do that, it's different."

And the football application? "Managing people is not about giving orders, it's about finding combinations and harmony. Because even if you can get the best players but don't have any harmony, don't even think about getting results. Like the French team in Euro 2004."

Talking of Euro 2004, would he select a French player to buy for Raith, if money and availability were no barrier in his particular brand of fantasy football? Zidane, perhaps? "No, no, no."

Thierry Henry? "No."

Nicolas Anelka? "Yes, my brother," is his instant response. "Because I know how he plays and I know how I can make him a big player again. But I know he can't play here."

Whether Stark's Park becomes Claude Anelka's Field of Dreams remains to be seen. He wants a top-four finish this season while chairman Hutton would regard anything better than bottom three as progress.

"If it all goes pear-shaped in the next few months and we didn't win a game, then we can't sit back and do nothing," said Hutton, talking about whether Anelka is effectively untouchable. "He has to stand or fall on his results. But he's not contemplating failure, and if he's a success, I'd expect him to be here for years."

Anelka himself agrees. "It's a big pressure for me, but I'm confident of what I can do. The worse thing for me is my name. Because of my name everybody will expect things to happen quick. I've got more pressure on me than anyone else in my situation. But I've had pressure since Nicolas left Arsenal."

Who got the job? Six other unusual managerial appointments

Kevin Cullis

Swansea City

Appointed February 1996

Departed After seven days

Record n/a

Managerial experience Cradley Town (non-league)

The PE teacher with no experience of professional football left Swansea City after just seven days.

Attilio Lombardo

Crystal Palace

Appointed March 1998

Departed April 1998

Results P7 W2 D0 L5

Managerial experience None

The inexperienced non-English speaking Italian (left) unsuccessfully tried to keep Crystal Palace in the Premier League as their player-manager.

Michael Knighton

Carlisle United

Appointed September 1998

Departed December 1999

Results P62 W17

Managerial experience None

The chairman (right) made himself manager. Carlisle were relegated to Third Division after winning 11 games out of 40.

Terry Smith

Chester City

Appointed July 1999

Departed December 2000

Results P20 W3 D3 L13

Managerial experience None

Chester relegated despite Ian Atkins being appointed to help after the American owner took charge.

Ron Noades


Appointed July 1998

Departed November 2000

Results P130 W51 D33 L46

Managerial experience Crystal Palace caretaker manager for two games.

Won promotion and collected a manager of the month award.

Marcio Maximo Barcellos


Appointed June 2003

Departed October 2003

Results P8 W2 D3 L 3

Managerial experience Brazil youth, Grand Cayman Islands technical director

First Brazilian manager in Britain.

Peter Donelan