Nicolas Anelka: The Iconic number 39 at Stamford Bridge

The man with the butterfly celebration, Nicolas Anelka. A name in which Chelsea fans speak fondly of after a successful spell at Stamford Bridge between 2008/2012. 

The new, Netflix documentary has put the French forward back in the limelight. His marmite personality means his career has been a rollercoaster. Bust ups with the national team, salutes at West Brom and going AWOL at Real Madrid makes it a good watch. 

His first move to England came back in 1997 when Arsene Wenger spotted the teenager at Paris Saint Germain. The move to Highbury was successful after he scored 26 and assisted 11 in 82 games. His first goal in England came off the bench after Paul Merson came off with an injury. He scored on his debut and as they say, the rest is history.

The iconic number 39 played the most games for Chelsea throughout his career after 184 outings. 

Why was he so successful at Chelsea?

The physicality of the Premier League always suited him. The style of Chelsea, the neat players who could thread the eye of a needle ball meant he was often on the scoresheet. 

The move to West London came in 2008 after playing for Bolton Wanderers in the Premier League. A £15milllion transfer was agreed in January of 2008, this was Avram Grant’s first signing as Blues boss. He pinned himself a three-year deal. 

At the time, Grant told Sky Sports News: “First of all he is a good finisher. He scores a lot of goals and he can provide assists. He has good pace. “ 

The end of his first season ended in huge disappointment. Managing to get to the Champions League final in Moscow against Manchester United, Anelka took the decisive penalty that sealed it for the opponents. Edwin Van Der Sar saved his spot kick to deny Chelsea a first trophy in the competition. 

His first full season at the Bridge did prove to be a success. Finishing the season with 25 goals in all competitions, he was the club's top scorer. Winning the FA Cup was the first piece of silverware for Anelka at Chelsea. 

Florent Malouda and Dider Drogba was on the scoresheet at Wembley as they beat Everton 2-1 at the national stadium. This amended some of the tears from Moscow a year before. 

Scorer turned provider 

2009/10 saw a decline in goals after netting 15 in 45. It was the assists that caught the eye that season after he grabbed 11 in all competitions. Taking his goal contribution tally to 26 in 45. Not a bad return. 

Chelsea won the league at the end of the season. The clubs third Premier League accolade. Doing the double over Manchester United, they pipped Sir Alex Ferguson’s side to first place after they Smashed Wigan Athletic 8-0 on the final day of the season. Anelka got two against The Latics. 

Securing the double at Wembley will remain a highlight in the history of the football club. Anelka played right-wing as his side beat Portsmouth 1-0. 

Carlo Ancelotti was sacked at the end of the following season after winning the double in 2009/10. It was also a negative season for the number 39 too. He only scored 16 goals in all competitions after playing 46 games. 

With six of these coming in the Premier League, Chelsea finished nine points off Manchester United in first. Could you argue that a successive topflight medal could have been secured if Anelka and co were firing all season? 

It was a poor year in the cup competitions too. The club were knocked out of the Champions League at the round of 16 stage to Manchester United. Anelka scored two in the third round of the now Carabao Cup but lost 4-3 to Newcastle and halted in the FA Cup fourth round to Everton.  

It was a huge decline from the previous year after winning the double. Nevertheless, finishing second meant it was another strong campaign in the league. But this team had set their standards high and wanted to win trophies every season. 

A miserable end

The final year in West London was concluded in the 2011/12 season. ‘Nico’ only played nine Premier League games and scored one goal. His final appearance for Chelsea in the topflight came in November after they lost to Queens Park Rangers 1-0 at Loftus Road. A derby day defeat for the Blues. 

He moved to Shanghai Greenland Shenhua in the January transfer window. Scoring on his debut, Anelka would go on to represent the Chinese club 22 times and score two more goals in his debut season.  

Despite leaving Chelsea in the winter window, Anelka would miss out on the best day in the club’s history after they won the Champions League in Munich. 

Due to playing four group games up until November for Chelsea, he got a medal for his efforts. This meant he left Chelsea with an attractive honours list of: One Premier League, One Champions League, two FA Cups and a golden boot award. 

Not a bad conclusion after the £15million transfer from Bolton.