Nicolas Anelka has told his fellow striker Didier Drogba to reconsider his desire to leave Chelsea, warning him that he would live to regret any move away from the Premier League.
Anelka speaks from experience. He was 20 when he left Arsenal to join Real Madrid, and although the Frenchman admits it was an offer he could not refuse, he ultimately regretted the move.
“When Didier comes back [from the African Cup of Nations], I will speak with him because he doesn’t know everything about leaving a club and playing in a different country,” said Anelka, who completed his move to Stamford Bridge last Friday, his eighth transfer in 11 years. “I do because I did it.
“I know that English football and the Premier League is the best. I will tell him to stay because he will not find anywhere else what he has at Chelsea. He is a big star in England and at Chelsea and everyone loves him.
“I spoke with him on Wednesday and I am really looking forward to playing with him. I don’t know yet what he thinks about the future but I will tell him to stay and, hopefully, we can play really well together. I sympathise with the way he is thinking about leaving. I know what it is like and all I can do is speak with him and explain what happened when I left [for Spain]. He’s nearly 30. If he wanted to come back, it would be very difficult. I did it when I was 20 so I could come back. But if he signs somewhere and regrets it, when you are 30 to 31, it is very difficult to come back.”
Although Anelka helped Real to the 2000 Champions League, he struggled during his year in Spain.
“It was a great feeling to win the Champions League but I knew that I could not stay very long in Spain,” he said.
“In Spain you can’t do anything. If you drive, everyone recognises you; at a restaurant you have paparazzi outside. I prefer the life in England. It was very difficult for me on the pitch because outside the pitch it was very hard. But at the same time I was not very good on the pitch.
“When Real Madrid want you, it is difficult to say ‘No’ but, when I got there, I knew I could not stay longer,” he said. “I know my quality and I tried to come back to a big club. I did, to Liverpool, but they did not sign me [permanently] so after that it was chasing a good club, a big club. That’s why I moved and I moved but, if I had signed for a big club before now, I would not have moved around like I did. I wanted to sign for Liverpool but it didn’t happen. If I had stayed at Liverpool, I believe I would still be there today.
“I think it was more [because of reasons] outside the football that I have had to wait [for another big club]. People were saying [things] about my character. That is wrong. If you ask all the players who have played with me, they will never say anything wrong about me. I think I could have stayed at a big club and played Champions League every year. I could have been a much better player but that is in the past. I have no regrets. The most important thing is Chelsea.”