August 25th, 2010
03:03 PM ET

Anelka: Enfant terrible or man of principle?

Nicolas Anelka has garnered praise and criticism throughout his football career.
Nicolas Anelka has garnered praise and criticism throughout his football career.

Is it ever right to challenge the status quo? Should you not say yes when you mean no? Should you ignore the consequences to question, criticize and reject that which you find unpalatable?

Well, if you’re anything like Nicolas Anelka, you should. "Le Sulk," as he’s known, has just completed a typical period of extremes in which he was banned from international football for 18 games following his dismissal from the French World Cup squad for insubordination.

His response was to laugh at the French Football Federation’s (FFF) public show of righteous indignation before promptly showing that he’s unaffected by their finger wagging. Two goals in Chelsea’s 6-0 defeat of Wigan in the English Premier League, followed by a mock act of contrition with Didier Drogba during one of the goal celebrations, suggested the Frenchman remains unbowed.

Anelka, 31, is nothing if not an enigma. Eight clubs in a 15-year career points to a man who finds it hard to make friends and settle. And when you add to that the fact that acrimonious relationships, like the one he had with France coach Raymond Domenech, have become the norm for him, it’s easy to label him as a “problem”.

Yet still big clubs, such as Arsenal, Real Madrid, Liverpool, Manchester City and Chelsea have sought to employ him. In fact, his collective transfer fees of some $140 million, make him second only to Cristiano Ronaldo in terms of the money spent on acquiring him.

Why might that be? Well, to start with, he remains a prodigious talent, capable, when sufficiently motivated, of pace, power and artistry that make him a stand-out player even in a team of stand-out players. He also appears to be a man who stands by his principles, refusing to apologize to Domenech for his South African tirade because he still believed in the premise of what he said.

This stance cost him a World Cup berth, just as in the past his obstinacy cost him dear at Arsenal and Real Madrid. But he took it on the chin without complaint rather than compromise. That’s not sulking, that’s character. And none other than his Chelsea boss - Carlo Ancellotti, publicly praised Anelka for his actions, calling him “an honest man.”

That won’t change anyone’s view of him though, because, like Eric Cantona, Roy Keane, Diego Maradona and a number of other fiercely principled, opinionated individuals, Anelka’s reputation goes before him. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy in which it’s easier and more convenient to put a negative slant on the things he says and does than it is to take the time to know and understand the player and his motivations.

So, to many, Nicolas Anelka will forever be remembered as talented enfant terrible who refused to toe any line that, in his opinion, did not need toeing. And you know what? If he cares at all, I bet he wouldn’t have it any other way.

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Filed under:  Football
soundoff (27 Responses)
  1. Wasiu

    Why would the Coach give the Captain band to Evra? when there are other legends in his team ? he caused the insult to himself, i don't blame Anelka even if he says the coach should go F**k himself, Anelka is French Legend

    August 25, 2010 at 3:36 pm | Reply
  2. NDOYE

    Anelka deserve respect!
    He always says what he thinks and refuse hypocrism. He is proud and honest!
    Therefore, you should have started your article with "ANELKA: A MAN OF PRINCIPLE".....only

    ANELKA we love you!!!

    August 25, 2010 at 3:43 pm | Reply
  3. Zolile

    Excellent assessment of the situation. Sadly though, principled people often do not go far in life. Good for Anelka, for his work and ethics speak volume. For many of us we are at the mercy of those holding the purse strings. We can never be as principled as him and millions other honest hearted individuals out there. Pity us!

    August 25, 2010 at 4:02 pm | Reply
  4. Martin

    Domenech was a fool that should've never coached a team on a national level. Anelka simply pointed out that the emperor was was naked and had a dense aura.

    August 25, 2010 at 4:14 pm | Reply
  5. scortz (Kwame Antwi Boasiako)

    kudos Terry! Good analysis. Such characters in the game only brings some sort of flavour that makes want to stand and salute . Yes, it's going to make you stand on your feet and gape in astonishment, thinking they are from a different planet. His presence in Chelsea only brings invincibility to the team. Irrespective of peoples ill-feeling about Nicolas' style and percieve gross respect he's one excellent a player and Chelsea cuacus are ion love with him.

    August 25, 2010 at 4:31 pm | Reply
  6. Yan B

    What a ridiculous article!

    The problem for the French team during the World Cup is and will be the fact that absolutely no one cared about Dominech. This was clear today... this was clear during the last World Cup, where Zidane LED the team.

    Furthermore, neither the FFF nor Dominech have taken responsibility for their mistakes, and instead handed out a silly ban to a player.

    August 25, 2010 at 5:06 pm | Reply
  7. raymond

    As a Ramyond and as a French, I must say that Anelka ruined my life during the world cup : in the field, he was dreaming and sleeping but not running, he was just walking and wondering where he was...sorry but Nicolas Anelka was simply not motivated at all during the world cup and this is something any single French cannot understand

    August 25, 2010 at 5:21 pm | Reply
  8. George

    No linguist here but shouldn't that be "L'enfant terrible"?

    August 25, 2010 at 5:25 pm | Reply
  9. John

    What is so great about having principles? Don't you realize they are generalized if then do loops, that backfire in specific situations.

    Apparently the writer of this article can agree and condone actions of priciple for Anelka's personal benefit while treading on the millions who pay to watch him perform.

    Silly article. Being a selfish prima donna is just that. Lack of flexibility and social interest.

    Letting Domenech know for sure who is the alpha male in Anelka's space was the most selfish, unintelligent and uncontrolled thing he could possibly do.

    August 25, 2010 at 5:42 pm | Reply
  10. btangos

    In France we say he's a fool

    August 25, 2010 at 5:54 pm | Reply
  11. George

    Please make it clear that a forum is moderated before people waste their time innocently posting comments that are never even looked at by the moderator.

    August 25, 2010 at 6:01 pm | Reply
  12. raymond

    a legend who deserves respect...the fact is that he was sleeping, dreaming and walking (among other players, actually quite the whole team was in such miserable mood and shape) on the field during the world cup

    August 25, 2010 at 6:04 pm | Reply
  13. silvius

    I like this guy.

    August 25, 2010 at 6:13 pm | Reply
  14. Nelson

    The world needs more men who are not afraid to speak up for themselves.

    August 25, 2010 at 6:20 pm | Reply
  15. g bovs

    Hey it would seem that we need lots more like him.....

    The terrible referee decisions that cost big clubs money and games and go unchanged........and in a game its very bad when everyone on the pitch knows the ref is wrong.

    What we need to do as a team is to ALL walk off when that happens and then pay the fine etc BUT that will show we will not put up with it so they WILL have to bring in camera and upgrade technology ie goal line etc.

    Anelka can be seen as a trouble maker but I take the view of the author that he his entitled to do WHAT he wants WHEN he wants.

    The man is a very talented player and gifted but also stands up for what he believes in and that is something special in todays football.

    Good luck to him.

    August 25, 2010 at 6:52 pm | Reply
  16. g bovs

    As a response to Anelka 'dreaming on the pitch and not interested in the world cup' as said above ......

    Would you be with the french trainer they had the 'games' he played and still plays with playrers heads.

    France has and had a wonderfull football team class ...yet they all blame the players for what happened ....

    They do bear some responsibility but the main one is the man charged with motivating them to win and in that he failed .


    August 25, 2010 at 6:57 pm | Reply
  17. olsi

    You have to understand that to play for your country and represent the people should be: an honor, and feed a purpose playing for a greater cause.
    Well, unfortunately deep inside Anelka's drive for self esteem and for many other players that play for France do not consider France to be their country. The driving patriotism is missing. They are raised and taught that their real countries, religion, and legion of valor lies and is Africa. that is the only subjective conclusion that i draw when i consider what happened to the French team.

    August 25, 2010 at 7:16 pm | Reply
  18. Charmaine

    Anelka you're great!! stand by what you believe in!

    August 25, 2010 at 9:25 pm | Reply
  19. raymond

    i do not agree with oisi: the problem of motivation was the same with Ribery or Toulalan who have no origins from Africa...the lack of motivation and patriotism was shared whatever the origins...

    August 27, 2010 at 5:50 pm | Reply
  20. Dr. Cajetan Coelho

    Wishing Nicholas Anelka all the very best in the ongoing 2010-2011 football season.

    August 29, 2010 at 7:16 am | Reply
  21. otaktakcenter

    This man Anelka is class. One Helluva Great footballer. Not a thumb sucker nor knee bender. I enjoyed his football when he was with Arsenal, the club I support.... and since then have followed him through his career with other clubs. Coaches are coaches, when they fail to galvanise a great talent like Anelka...they put it to the players...maybe the coach as in the case of Ryamond Domenech found the FFF national coach shoes too big for him...

    September 6, 2010 at 4:29 am | Reply
  22. Master P

    Nicolas Anelka is a superb player n a person who tries to live by the book. I am impressed by Raymond who noticed that all the french where not motivated, I think that question should be put to the coach as the head of the mission. He might have been in a position which he deserved not.

    September 8, 2010 at 11:51 pm | Reply
  23. Alex

    Anelka is a great player. Not only because he scores goals but also because he has heart. The French just picked him to make an example out of him. Obviously, they picked the wrong person because since he's someone very proud, he doesn't take crap home. He says what he wants when he wants. Come on people !!! As Raymond Domanech got fired, he asked 2 million Euros in damages to the FFF. What the hell is wrong with this picture ? The coach was the problem...too bad that he got sacked after the WCup and not deal with it !

    September 10, 2010 at 9:47 am | Reply
  24. Nat Folarin

    Good stuff.Objective analysis.Without players like Anelka, football might not be at its exiting best.For sure the FFF has learnt something from the situation, though might not accept openly.

    September 12, 2010 at 8:33 am | Reply
  25. mysterio

    anelka is a gud player just dat somtymz he screwz up

    September 21, 2010 at 10:27 pm | Reply
  26. marcos from Brazil

    Anelka is a great player and I respect him... And of course noones respect Domenech, he is a shame for the France football! No wonder why the players doent want to respect him... He didn't want to sheke hands with the South african team coach after the match in the world cup... Domenech u should retire!

    September 25, 2010 at 5:20 am | Reply
  27. Tony Gartland

    Saw Anelka play for Paris St Germain against Metz years ago. Damn lazy Prima donna that is what he was. Don't like him, never have, never will. Not worthy of being in the same paragraph that mentions Cantona or Keane et al.

    October 12, 2010 at 2:47 pm | Reply

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