Nicolas Anelka names ‘fast, strong and dirty’ Arsenal hero as his ‘toughest’ opponent

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Anelka named Keown as the toughest defender he faced (Picture: Getty)

Nicolas Anelka has named former Arsenal centre-back Martin Keown as the ‘toughest’ defender he faced during his career.

The former Liverpool, Arsenal, Manchester City, Chelsea and Real Madrid striker had stints in France, England, Spain, Turkey, Italy, China and India during a glittering career and faced some of the top defenders on the planet.

He burst onto the scene as a teenager with Arsenal, winning the Premier League alongside Keown in the 1997/98 season.

Keown would not hold back in training and Anelka found him the toughest opponent to play against when they crossed paths later in their careers.

‘I think Martin Keown was the toughest,’ Anelka told Bolton Wanderer’s website in a Q&A. ‘He was fast, strong and dirty.

‘I liked playing against him in training because I knew it was just like a game situation.

Sport. Football. UEFA Champions League. France. 16th September 1998. Lens 1 v Arsenal 1. The Arsenal team line up together for a group photograph. Back Row L-R: Martin Keown, Dennis Bergkamp, Patrick Vieira, David Seaman, Nicolas Anelka, Tony Adams. Front
Keown and Anelka were part of the same squad (Picture: Popperfoto via Getty)

‘He helped me a lot to adapt to English football, along with Tony Adams and Steve Bould.

‘Of course it was war every time I played against him when I was facing Arsenal.’

As for the best player he played with, Anelka is in no doubt.

‘Only one player I can say as an answer to this question. Ronaldo – El Phenomeno,’ he added.

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