x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

The many stops over Nicolas Anelka's career make it read more like a travelogue brouchure

When Anelka signed for Juventus at the end of the last transfer window, he was making the 10th move of his career, writes Ian Hawkey.

Nicolas Anelka has impressed on the training pitch but not during games as of yet for Serie A giants Juventus. But more chances await.
Nicolas Anelka has impressed on the training pitch but not during games as of yet for Serie A giants Juventus. But more chances await.

Anecdotal accounts of Nicolas Anelka's first two months in Italian football are mostly positive.

Juventus teammates have talked of impressive displays in training, of his professionalism.

Off the field, his new colleagues do not see him much.

Anelka resides in a more urban area of Turin than star footballers usually chose.

Anelka has always been distinct.

His breakthrough as a swift, silky goalscorer was made before he was 18.

By 20, the Frenchman's advisers had mastered the freedom of movement possibilities freshly offered to outstanding players by the 1995 Bosman ruling and he became a byword for financially rewarding restlessness.

At 34, he still is.

When Anelka signed for Juventus at the end of the last transfer window, he was making the 10th move of his career, adding a ninth different club in a sixth different country to a hopscotch of a career that has attracted much criticism whenever he looked like he was engineering exits from clubs, but continuing admiration from respected coaches.

One coach said that while he valued Anelka the striker, he learnt quickly that the player's passion for the sport had clear borders.

That he was not the sort who would leave training and talk or watch football insatiably.

Music, it often seemed, brought him more pleasure. Perhaps that helps Anelka in his current circumstances.

For all the positive mutterings about his efforts in practice, Anelka in a Juve jersey has been a phantom.

Although he joined on a free transfer from Shanghai Shenhua and the worth of his five-month Juve contract is far below the reported €12 million (Dh56.7m)-a-year he was offered in China, his 20 minutes of Serie A action so far - plus four minutes in the Champions League - is hardly good value.

But if any week is to reveal why Anelka, 34 this month, was hired by Juve, this should be it.

A fifth striker in a squad hierarchy where there is no standout marksman - Mirko Vucinic, Seba Giovinco and Fabio Quagliarella have seven goals each across all competitions, Alex Matri six - may indeed be useful for a congested sequence of demanding games that fall immediately after Vucinic and Giovinco have been away on international duty.

Juve meet Inter Milan away on Saturday, and Bayern Munich three nights later in the Uefa Champions League quarter-finals first leg.

In his downtown Turin flat, Anelka ought to have circled those as important dates if he is to make a mark on a chapter of his winding career that is, so far, rather empty.

 

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