Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Once Again, Chaos Swirls around Anelka

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Once Again, Chaos Swirls around Anelka

Article excerpt

The French striker, now playing in China, was named a player- coach last week, and a few days later it appears the manager was ousted from the team.

Before moving to China earlier this year, Nicolas Anelka said he had aspirations to be a film actor when his playing days were over. Right now, he seems to be starring in a soap opera.

Shanghai Shenhua signed him up as a goal scorer to light up the Chinese Super League. But after notching just one victory in five games, Shenhua cleared out the team management and made Anelka a player-coach. And still the team lost its next game, 1-0, at home to Tianjin Teda last Friday.

Anelka as coach? The same Nicolas Anelka who was once called "The Incredible Sulk?" The same incredibly talented, impossibly self- centered individual whose foul-mouthed spat with the national team coach sparked the mutiny of the French team during the 2010 World Cup in South Africa?

The very same.

There is some confusion around the Shenhua club because of the way that Anelka's compatriot, Jean Tigana, appears to have been removed as the manager of the ambitious club.

If Tigana has walked, or was pushed, from the club, it represents a quick-fire turnover by the team's chief investor, Zhu Jun. Less than one month ago, Tigana was asked by the Chinese media whether Anelka was worth the EUR 230,000 -- more than $300,000 -- per week Shenhua was said to have agreed to pay him to lure him from Chelsea.

"Too early to tell" was the gist of the head coach's reply.

Things can get lost in translation, especially when foreign media are excluded from the room, as was the case last week

But the outcome, which took some believing in any language, was a revolution in the coaching department. Three assistant coaches, all hired at Tigana's request, were dismissed. Two new trainers, a fitness coach and a goalkeeping coach were appointed.

And then came the big announcement: Anelka, the player and captain of this losing team, was to be player-coach with immediate effect.

Where was Tigana while the musical chairs of his coaching assistants were being moved around?

When the music stopped, and someone asked, a club official reportedly told the Chinese journalists: "Tigana is still the coach of the team. Anelka is now on the coaching team." But Tigana was not there to confirm or deny anything.

The official said Tigana was "reporting to club management."

The Frenchman, a contemporary of Michel Platini when Les Bleus won their first meaningful trophy, the 1984 European Championship, had been cautious from the very beginning. "I will do the maximum," he said when he was hired last December. "But alone, you cannot win; I need the whole club to be behind me to have this winning mentality." Certainly not the whole club, and maybe not even his countryman, Anelka, was behind him.

By Monday, it still was unclear who had decided what. …

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