Arsenal legend Martin Keown reveals Nicolas Anelka was the best 17-year-old he ever saw play

Nwankwo Kanu and Nicolas Anelka and Patrick Vieira at Arsenal celebrating a goal
Anelka joined Arsenal as a teenager (Picture: Getty)

Gunners legend Martin Keown has named Nicolas Anelka as the best 17-year-old he ever saw in English football.

The former centre-back was at Arsenal when Arsene Wenger signed Anelka as a teenager from Paris Saint-Germain in 1997.

Anelka would quickly break into the first-team and would finish the 1998/1999 season as the club’s top Premier League goalscorer.

The Frenchman would join Real Madrid in the summer of 1999 and Keown raved about how good Anelka was when he arrived at Arsenal.

‘Best 17-year-old I’ve ever seen,’ Keown told BT Sport.

‘In fact, everything [Thierry] Henry did, I think Anelka could have done for Arsenal if he’d had wanted to stay.

But you can’t stop that player, once he’s through he’s rapid, no backlift, great control, he’s away.

Nicolas Anelka as a teenager at Arsenal
Anelka left Arsenal for Real Madrid (Picture: Getty)

‘He used to do that in training every time I saw him, he loved that position.’

While Henry would have a long and record-breaking career at Arsenal, Anelka would become a serial globetrotter.

Anelka would play in China, Spain, Turkey, Italy, India and France and had several spells in the Premier League including at Liverpool, Manchester City, Bolton and Chelsea.

The France international could be a controversial figure and revealed in 2008 he left Arsenal for Real because he didn’t feel the fans appreciated him.

‘When I started the season there was a poll because I had taken the place of Ian Wright,’ he remembered.

‘I thought the fans really wanted it to be me and were pleased with me.

Nicolas Anelka speaks to media at a Arsenal legends games
Anelka didn’t fell loved at Arsenal (Picture: Getty)

‘But seeing the result in the papers and on TV hit me hard because I had done things for nothing.

‘I thought “So that’s how it is. This is how you thank me. Okay now you watch what is going to happen. I am going to play, score my goals and just when you are saying Anelka, Anelka that’s when I’m going to leave”.

‘And that is exactly what I did because I was furious with them.’

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