ISL 2015: Mumbai City's decision to appoint Anelka as manager could backfire
Anelka is talented, was by far the most effective and entertaining marquee player last year and has immense marketing value too. But his managerial capabilities are far from proven.
Nicolas Anelka was named as Mumbai City FC player-manager today, a decision, which if you've followed the Frenchman's career, could backfire badly for a club that finished second from last in the Indian Super League's first season.
Anelka is talented, was by far the most effective and entertaining marquee player last year and has immense marketing value too. But his managerial capabilities are far from proven. In fact, the only staff role he has ever played is that of a coach at Chinese club Shanghai Shenhua in 2012 (when the club finished ninth).
Moreover, his temperament is questionable. Moments where Anelka was seen smiling were rare — mostly just when he scored. He's a very private person — always on his headphones and with his agent. Arsenal fans nicknamed him 'Le Sulk' due to his lack of enthusiasm.
How this will work in managing a dressing room made up of Indian and foreign stars will be interesting. A manager in the ISL needs to create a cohesive atmosphere - breaking the ice between players and staff on and off pitch. Whether Anelka, who can be as outspoken as he can be quiet, can manage to do this in a league which doesn't even last three months, is uncertain.
He's also a bit of a troublemaker. Take this for example: during his time at Shanghai, Anelka refused to bow in front of his team's fans after a humiliating loss to then bottom-of-the-table Qingdao Jonoon. It was an away match with fans having travelled more than a thousand kilometres to support the team but Anelka didn't take part in the traditional post-match bowing.
A fan later caught up with him at the team hotel and near the team bus, asking him why he didn't show respect. Anelka reportedly said "I don't care," and that was the end of his Chinese journey.
Anelka may overcome his early issues with indiscipline (he received a 45-day suspension at Real Madrid for refusing to train and fell out with the Paris Saint-Germain coach during his return to the club in 2002), but along with his goal-scoring exploits, will always carry the baggage of having a habit of defying authority.
During the World Cup in South Africa in 2010, he was sent back to France for allegedly abusing manager Raymond Domenech. A Guardian report says that he told the coach 'go f*ck yourself you son of a wh*re' and then refused to make a public apology. The France team refused to train after Anelka was sent back. It was mutiny and France crashed out of the group stage after drawing one and losing twice in a group consisting of Uruguay, South Africa and Mexico.
The striker, who was 31-years-old at the time, was given an 18-match ban following the incident. Anelka then said he was 'dying of laughter' at the ban because he had already decided to retire from international football. He also called people in the federation 'clowns'.
On the pitch, Anelka has won Premier League titles and a Champions League as well. Off it though, has been another story. It is conceivable that being the man in charge will temper his outlook. But it is equally likely that it will not. And that's why Mumbai City FC and the club's fans need to brace themselves for the unpredictable.
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