Nicolas Anelka reveals hostility and fights after leaving Arsenal for Real Madrid

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Nicolas Anelka had a ‘nightmare’ at Real Madrid (Picture: Getty Images)

Nicolas Anelka has revealed the levels of hostility he experienced when he left Arsenal for Real Madrid, that resulted in training ground fights, in new Netflix documentary ‘Anelka: Misunderstood.’

The Frenchman signed for Real Madrid from the Gunners for just over £22m in 1999 after establishing himself as one of the brightest young talents in the world game the previous season.

Great things were expected of the striker in the Spanish capital, but it did not go to plan at all for him at the Santiago Bernabeu, not scoring for the first five months of his stay at Real and leaving after just one season.

Anelka has explained how things never looked like they would be plain sailing at Real, even from the first time he met his teammates.

‘After the press conference, I went to the changing room,’ Anelka explained in the new documentary. ‘I got there first, sat down, but players kept coming up to me and saying: “That’s my spot”. I would say: “Oh, sorry. Can I sit here?” and then another player would come up and say: “That’s my spot”.

‘It happened maybe 20 times. I just thought: “What am I doing here? This is going to be hostile”. What I experienced that day was just the beginning of the nightmare.’

Amid his struggles for form, Anelka was in and out of the team and fell out with the club hierarchy after refusing to train, receiving a fine and suspension.

He did return to the fold, eventually scoring twice in the Champions League semi-final and going on to lift the trophy in his only season at the club.

However, the success was just papering over the cracks, with fights breaking out on the training pitch when he returned from his ban.

‘Going back to training was really tough because the players were against me,’ he explained. ‘A lot of them were out to get me on the pitch, but I came from England. I knew how to be physical. There were little fights and duels out on the pitch but everything fell back into place and got back to normal.

Real v Valencia X
Nicolas Anelka did enjoy some success at Real Madrid (Picture: Getty Images)

‘I helped Real win their eighth Champions League title. I’m proud of that. I didn’t do much. I did very little at Real Madrid. I would have liked to do much more but I didn’t get the chance.

‘With hindsight, if you want to play for Real Madrid, sacrifices need to be made but I was too young to understand. There are things I shouldn’t have said or done. It was early in my career, maybe too early. I didn’t know it was the only Champions League I’d win, for example.’

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