Earlier today, Atlético-MG President Alexandre Kalil announced the signing of free agent Nicolas Anelka, who recently had his contract terminated at West Bromwich Albion of the Premier League.
Anelka é do Galo.
— Alexandre Kalil (@alexandrekalil) April 6, 2014
A little less than a month after the Frenchman’s dishonorable departure from West Brom, Anelka knew that it was time for move to a more exotic location. What was so strange about the move was that he refused the notion just days earlier. In a report on Belo Horizonte daily O Tempo, Kalil denied vehemently that the team would be able to bring in the former French international because the club found “he was too expensive.”
What changed in the past few days? Most likely, it was Anelka’s pretensions moneywise. Earning well over $75,000 per week like he did at The Hawthorns would be short of impossible. He knew that for him to get a chance to play, that he would have to become a bit more financially flexible. According to Globo Esporte, there were negotiations that continued as the player was interested in a reunion with former PSG man Ronaldinho Gaúcho. As of press time, there are no details of a contract being signed or anything of that nature. There should be an official statement from the club regarding this matter.
Based on his inactivity as well as his age, it will take some time to be able to get him in form for the beginning of the Brasileirão in a couple of weeks. He will have the benefit of the World Cup break, but it will be a grueling schedule from that point until early December.
Atlético-MG could and would be able to play a 4-3-3 with Anelka playing towards the right with Diego Tardelli on the left and Jô in the middle. Tardelli would be the man that could drop back.
He might not have the pace that he used to, but he can offer another option to Autuori’s 4-2-2-2 coming from the right. That area of the pitch has seen a reduced production ever since the departure of Bernard to Shakhtar Donetsk during the summer transfer window. That option might be a bit more far-fetched or you could see Diego Tardelli to drop back alongside Ronaldinho and Anelka would play up top with Jô.
One benefit for Anelka would be the amount of space that Brazilian soccer does offer. That could help him out as far as getting maximum production out of him.
With all this being said, it’s Nicolas Anelka we’re talking about. He’s not known for being a player that is nicely packaged and is a given – on the positive end – that is. There are several flaws and his character is a major question mark. He brings baggage and a well-documented record of misbehavior.
What if he doesn’t fit in? Would the coaching staff be willing to change the tactical map so he feels comfortable? Well, you know the questions.
Many must be talking about the white elephant in this conversation. I mean there is a reason why he is in Brazil and that was beaten to death. After his actions that got him out the Premier League to begin with, yes, there will be a backlash. Let’s see how that is taken by both the player and the club. At this stage, it is too soon to know exactly how the news is going to be taken. One thing is for sure the Jewish community will not be happy about it at all. How big of an impact will it be as Anelka looks to make a “fresh start,” you say?
According to the 2010 census, there are approximately 107,000 Jews living in Brazil. Although the numbers do vary, what remains consistent is that Brazil does have the tenth highest population of Jews in the world.
Yes, there is going to be displeasure and the move will be unpopular for many individuals. How can it not be? The whole quenelle incident was polarizing to say the least, anything written here is not going to add an iota to that conversation. In Brazil, they are well aware of what he did and each individual will react a certain. That we will see.
What can be said for sure is that Nicolas Anelka will be getting another chance, deserved or not. He’s getting another opportunity to ply his craft despite tripping with the same rock at Real Madrid, Juventus, Paris Saint-Germain, Arsenal, Liverpool, Fenerbahçe, Chelsea, Shanghai Shenhua amongst many others. For Anelka, it could be the last chance to do something in a career that had potential on the pitch mired by his antics and lack of common sense and poor judgment.
Juan is a freelance writer as well as a match commentator in the United States. He is a correspondent for The Telegraph as well as regular guest on TALKSport as well as BBC World Service and Radio Globo (Brazil). You can follow him on Twitter.