Controversy today at West Bromwich Albion where initial reports from Sky Sports News indicated that striker Nicolas Anelka had walked out on the club and announced he will retire with immediate effect.
The Tweet from @skysportsnews said: “West Brom’s Nicolas Anelka walks out of training and tells staff he is retiring #SSN.”
We can now confirm that this tweets was factually inaccurate and that @skysportsnews has since re-phrased their classification of the situation: “West Brom have confirmed Nicolas Anelka will miss Saturday’s game with Everton amid reports he may retire.”
West Brom have also quashed the initial Sky tweet by announcing the striker will merely miss Saturday’s game at Everton: “West Bromwich Albion can confirm that Nicolas Anelka will not be involved in Saturday’s game at Everton. The club have excused the striker from club duty on compassionate grounds.”
An article from Birmingham Mail reporter Chris Lepkowski sheds the best (albeit limited) light on what went down in the Midlands earlier today.
Apparently, Anelka raised major doubts over his Albion future after walking out before training on Thursday morning. The 34 year old striker cleared out his belongings before speaking to sporting and technical director Richard Garlick. The walk out, however, was not due to any sort of bust up between Anelka and Baggies management.
Through Mr. Lepkowski’s Twitter handle (@chrislepkowski) he now claims that one of Anelka’s agents has passed away. The death has caused Anelka “great distress” and was the reason for his rather abrupt departure from the ground.
At this point in time, there is nothing to suggest that this tragedy somehow corresponds with Anelka retiring.
Here’s what we do know about Anelka, his recent situation at West Brom and prior comments the Frenchman has made regarding life after football.
Anelka signs with West Brom
The 34 year old signed with West Brom on July 4th after agreeing to return to the Premier League on a one year deal that included an option for a further year in the club’s favor.
Anelka arrived at The Hawthorns a free agent after leaving Italian champions Juventus at the end of last season where he completed a five month contract with the Bianconeri.
Upon signing with West Brom, the French international was welcomed with open arms by Baggies boss, Steve Clarke, who called Anelka “a great boost for everyone at the club.”
Steve Clarke calls Anelka an “engaging character” and a “favorite”
A week ago, Clarke spoke at length of how he expected Anelka to shed his “Le Sulk” tag.
“There is no downside with Nicolas,” said Clarke. “I find him a very engaging character and good person. He has been great in the group here. He has come in here and is already a favorite. He is a good person.
“He wanted to come back to England to play. He felt he still had enough left in his body to produce in the Premier League and has still got the hunger to score in the Premier League.”
When questioned about Anelka’s hunger and desire, to continue playing professional football as a 34 year old, Clarke was adamant. “He is up for it. If he wasn’t up for it, he would have chosen to go somewhere else for an easier life and still pick up decent money. Everyone keeps knocking on about his age, but he is the fittest 34-year-old I have seen. He is a fabulous athlete.”
The Baggies boss started Anelka alongside striker Shane Long in West Brom’s 1-0 loss to Southampton last weekend. The match didn’t turn out according to plan for Anelka, who endured a frustrating debut and was substituted seven minutes from time.
Anelka’s aspirations to become an actor following retirement
Anelka has previously mentioned his desire to become an actor following his retirement from football. In 2002 he played to role of a football named Nicolas in the film Le Boulet.
Following that role, Anelka discussed his ambition to work in the film industry. “I have a friend who’s a producer, who makes lots of films,” Anelka said. “He recently did Astérix. So it’s already agreed that I’m going to do other films. It helps to know actors and producers. It’s different to football and it’s something I enjoy very much because there’s no ball. I like pretending to be somebody else, it’s fun.”
Anelka’s footballing career has been an interesting one, to say the least. Before West Brom the Frenchman played with Juventus for five months after spending one year at Chinese club Shanghai Shenhua where he reportedly earned an annual salary of $16 million (€12m).
Before his stint in Asia, Anelka spent time with five other Premier League clubs, Arsenal (1997-99), Liverpool (2001-02, loan), Manchester City (2002-05), Bolton Wanderers (2006-08) and Chelsea (2008-12). During his 17 year career Anelka also featured for powerhouses Paris Saint-Germain (1996-97), Real Madrid (1999-00) and Fenerbahce (2005-06).
We will continue to update this story as reports continue to come through.