Nicolas Anelka vows to carry on career
Nicolas Anelka has told Metro News he intends to carry on playing football next season, and reiterated his claims that his '"quenelle" gesture was not anti-Semitic.
Anelka’s controversial celebration following a goal against West Ham on Dec. 26 landed the striker with a five-game ban from the Football Association, although he was cleared of anti-Semitism.
The 35-year-old is without a club after being sacked by West Brom in March, but he remains keen to keep on playing, and is now trying to decide which will be the 12th club of his lengthy and eventful career.
"I am, above all, a free man who is finally getting to enjoy his children, notably my daughter, born in October," he said. "I'm not specifically looking for a club, but I'm getting offers.
"It's the least I can do to look at them. I still haven't decided. My contract with West Brom officially ended on March 29. Unless there's a miracle, there'll be no new challenge before next season.
"Whether it be in Europe or in an exotic country, I want to enjoy football as I did when I was young, to refind that insouciance and the love of the game I had when I started.
"While I'm waiting, I go running, I keep myself ticking over. I know my body, I know what it needs to be ready when the time comes. Because there's a good chance that you'll see me on the pitch again."
When he does pull on his boots once more, Anelka will be under close scrutiny following his "quenelle" that provoked a storm on both sides of the Channel.
While many anti-racism groups condemned the gesture as anti-Semitic, Anelka insisted it was merely in support of his friend, French comedian Dieudonné, whose controversial show had been banned by French authorities.
"It's really easy to say that I'm anti-Semite and racist," he continued. "And what's more, proof is needed. I have no history of racism or anti-Semitism, so there's no proof nor even a suspicion of proof.
"There comes a time when people have to stop being paranoid and believing that we're all at war with each other. The people who made the big headlines don't know my life, who I hang out with.
"They don't know that I'm really good friends with Thomas Blumenthal, that my neighbours who come all the time to my place in Paris are Jewish too. But I'm going to stop there because I'm justifying myself and I hate that."
While his club career may continue, his international career stopped abruptly in 2010 following his public dismissal from the France squad by then-coach Raymond Domenech.
The combustible former Liverpool and Chelsea forward admitted insulting Domenech at half-time of Les Bleus' 2010 World Cup group-stage game with Mexico, but was unrepentant.
"In the dressing room, I insulted a coach that the whole of the French people were already insulting, a coach that had never won anything except a Ligue 2 title and the Toulon tournament," said Anelka, whose exclusion led to the French players' infamous strike at Knysna, adding that Domenech's treatment of Thierry Henry had infuriated him.
"I respect the man, because I think he's a good person, but I have no respect for the coach," he said. "He's not up to the task.
"When you've been coached by [Carlo] Ancelotti and other greats, it's very difficult to be coached by Domenech. That World Cup is not a scar, and I assume everything that happened.
"If I had to do it again, I would do it because he deserved it at that time. A coach who asks for respect, but who is incapable of respecting the leading goalscorer in French football history does not deserve any consideration."