Sunil Chhetri scored a brilliant hat-trick when Mumbai City FC thrashed NorthEast United FC 5-1 in Match 23 of the Indian Super League (ISL) Season 2 and it seemed that one of the most promising clubs in the league has finally found its winning combination. But it hasn't turned out that way.
Nicolas Anelka’s issues with the club management put Mumbai’s campaign in jeopardy and the club is currently at the second-last place in the ISL table with no chance of making it to the last four of the tournament.
Mumbai’s marquee player-cum-coach Anelka on Friday said: “I don’t think I will come back (for Season 3). You have to speak to the team management.”
Anelka’s comments summed up Mumbai’s slump this season. His 'tantrums' have left his team in a position where they have no chance to reach the knockout phase.
The 36-year-old, in the early stages of the event, had a spat with Andre Moritz, one of Mumbai’s key players, who left the club after the incident and later the Frenchman also had a fall-out with assistant coach Oscar Bruzon due to his managerial differences and he too left the club mid-season.
After a humiliating 7-0 defeat to FC Goa, Mumbai were still trying to recover when Anelka’s outburst, after the 2-0 loss to NorthEast United, showed that something is wrong with the club and it's not just about their winless streak.
Anelka launched a verbal attack on the team management and Chhetri in a press-conference saying that if he had a choice and chance to choose the players, he would have chosen different players and that he doesn’t have a lot of quality. He also made it clear that he had nothing to do with picking up the team and if anyone wants to question about the players, they better ask the people who signed the players, not him.
"I decide who plays where. There is a better player to play in the middle than him (Chhetri). He is not a number 10 as well for me. Did you see him give the ball to anyone from the beginning? No. So he has to play left winger, If he is not happy, then that is life," Anelka said about the India captain.
There were already talks of Anelka not being happy with how the things were going at Mumbai City FC and his comments after the loss against NorthEast United made it clear that the club is in a crisis.
Despite his comments against the club, the administration didn’t take any action considering he is the core member of their squad and also holds the managerial responsibility. But Anelka’s response has been unprofessional and unbecoming of a player of his stature.
His coming out and criticising the players and the management hasn’t done any good to the club and he showed this kind of attitude when his team gave him full backing and needed him the most.
Mumbai are the 12th football club the former Chelsea star is playing for. He may not consider the ISL to be at the same level as the other leagues he has played in; but if a club has shown confidence in the player and has spent big bucks on him, then the owners expect the player to at least act in a responsible manner if not show his best on the field.
Anelka, however, is no stranger to controversies. He was kicked out of the French national team and was handed an 18-match ban after he abused his coach during half-time in the 2010 World Cup match against Mexico and later refused to apologise for his behaviour.
He faced huge criticism after he made a highly offensive ‘quenelle’ gesture after scoring a goal in a game against West Ham in December 2013. Many viewed it as an anti-Semitic gesture and it also earned him a five-match ban and £80,000 fine.
Despite has never been able to retain his interest and show loyalty to a club for long. He has made a series of controversial club moves and is now looking for his 13th club.
At Real Madrid, Anelka was given a 45-day suspension by manager Vincente del Bosque after he missed three days of training. He is one of the few players who have won the Premier League title with two clubs but his love-and-hate relationship with the English media gave him the nickname ‘Le Sulk’.
Mumbai, who have won just three matches out of 12 they have played this season are at the seventh place after playing a 1-1 draw against the bottom-placed Kerala Blasters FC and the talks of Anelka leaving the club will put the club under extra pressure when they take on Chennaiyin FC on Tuesday.