AN older and wiser Nicolas Anelka said yesterday the prospect of winning the Champions League with Chelsea was one of the major reasons he signed for the club.
Anelka, meeting reporters at Chelsea’s expansive training ground in Surrey, jus
t south of London, said: “I want to win the medals, I would love to win the Champions League here and I think we can do that — and I am delighted to have the opportunity.
“We are still in the race to win all the trophies this season and I think Chelsea are better equipped than any other team. I don’t think there is any other team with as much quality as Chelsea — but you never know.”
Anelka, 28, also said he has returned to London after last week’s £15 million (US$29,45 million) transfer from Bolton Wanderers, a more mature person than when he left it in 1999 after nearly three years at Arsenal.
The French international striker, who has now cost £85 million in transfer fees — more than any other player — joined Arsenal as a 17-year-old from Paris St German in March 1997 for £500 000 and left as a “misunderstood” 20-year-old for Real Madrid two and half years later for £22,9 million.
Since then, he has played for Paris St Germain again, Liverpool, Manchester City, Fenerbahce and Bolton Wanderers, and returns to the English capital with a different approach to life.
Last year Anelka married Barbara Tausia, a dancer who appeared on a popular French TV show, and he says he is now equipped mentally and physically to handle all the challenges he is about to face with Avram Grant’s star-studded side.
“I now know everything about what it means to be at a big club. I’ve learnt from earlier in my career,” he said.
“I have learnt how to cope with difficult situations. It was difficult before because I was young. But I can handle it now.”
He also said his nickname of ‘Le Sulk’ was unfair and given to him by people who did not know or understand him.
“I am a happy person, I think my reputation for sulking is unfair. I never said there was anything wrong in my career, what people said about me, those people didn’t know me.
“The players I played with at Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester City and the other clubs have never said anything bad about me.”
He also denied a suggestion made by Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger that he wanted to return to the North London club last year.
“I like Arsenal and I had a great time at Arsenal, but signing for Chelsea is a great opportunity for me. I never look back, what has happened is in the past. I am just happy to be at Chelsea. Arsenal is in the past, it was good, but it’s in the past.”
Turning to the future, Anelka said he was excited by the chance to play with Didier Drogba when the Ivorian returns from the African Cup of Nations next month.
“I think we will combine well up front. It is not very difficult to play with him because he can do everything. He is clever, he can play with his back to the goal, he can score, he can do everything. I like these kinds of strikers I am sure I can play with him.”
Anelka made his debut for Chelsea as a substitute in last Saturday’s 2-0 win over Tottenham Hotspur and is likely to make his first start against Birmingham City on Saturday. — Reuters.