On this day in 1999, Arsenal’s prodigious young striker Nicolas signed for Real Madrid in a £23m move that would smash Los Blancos’ transfer record.
In the era before the Galaticos were invented, Anelka was the club’s first real superstar signing.
At just 20-years-old, the former Paris Saint-Germain striker would become one of the most expensive footballers in the world.
Things didn’t go to plan in the Spanish capital, though. He failed to score in the first five months of his career at Santiago Bernabeu, and had already fallen out with the club’s coach, Vincente Del Bosque. However, by the end of the season he would at least have a Champions League medal to call his own.
That was his one and only season in Spain. It’s quite easy to forget what a remarkable – and nomadic – career Anelka has had.
Footballers, in general, tend to either start like a house on fire, winding down as they get older, or begin slowly and get progressively better.
The French international certainly bucks those trends. His path follows that of a mountainous region with many peaks and troughs.
With 31 goals for the Gunners the Parisian would garner himself a reputation for being one of the most feared young forwards in European football. That would earn him the move to Madrid, where he would, relatively speaking, bomb.
A return home to PSG would further underwhelm. It was a short loan spell at Liverpool that would reignite his career.
After which, Manchester City would come calling. Arguably, this was his most prolific spell of football, scoring 46 goals in some 90-odd performances for the Citizens.
As ever with ‘Le Sulk’, he wouldn’t hang around long. A spell in Turkey with Fenerbahce culminated in him failing to make a single appearance.
Bolton Wanderers would take him back to England where he flourished under – of all people – Big Sam Allardyce. That would earn him a move to Chelsea where he would bag 59 goals for the Blues.
At 32-years-old his time at Stamford Bridge had come to an end, though, and another move abroad – this time to China – proved disastrous.
He failed to make a single appearance at Shanghai Shensua and would go on loan to another European superpower in Juventus, where he would win Serie A.
A move back to the Premier League – his spiritual home – beckoned. Finishing his career where it truly began, Anelka would end up at West Brom to complete a truly bonkers footballing education.
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