By Richard Clarke

Arsène Wenger believes that Nicolas Anelka still loves Arsenal.

The French striker made his name at Highbury between 1997 and 1999. He was one of
Wenger’s first discoveries and led the attack in the Double season of 1998.

Anelka departed for Real Madrid with a record 28 goals in 90 appearances and has flitted around some glamorous and not-so-glamorous clubs ever since. However, whenever he has played against Arsenal there has been a sense of “what if”.

Now 30, the French international has formed a fine partnership with Didier Drogba at Stamford Bridge and could put a massive dent in his old side’s title ambitions when leaders Chelsea come to Emirates Stadium on Sunday. But his old mentor believes he would only do it with a heavy heart.

“I always kept in touch with Nicolas because I like him and I still believe deeply that he has never lost touch with Arsenal,” said Wenger at Friday’s press conference. “I believe he still loves this Club.

“I was disappointed when he wanted to leave us. The rest has been down to him. He has not always been at the clubs where his talent deserves him to be. But in the end the talent told. He was a long time out of the French national team, he was a long time out of the top level clubs, but now he is where he belongs. I think he is more mature now.

“Yes, I considered bringing him back at some stage. It never worked because we’d always had strikers and also I have never been a big fan of bringing old players back.”

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27 Nov 2009