Just as Nicolas Anelka moves into a position to gun down his
former side, Arsène Wenger has described the striker's
departure from Arsenal as his "biggest regret".
The Frenchman looked set for a glittering career in red-and-white when he arrived from PSG in February 1997, aged 17. Within a year he was the spearhead of the Arsenal attack and helping them towards the 'double'. However he moved the following season leaving memories of 28 goals in 90 games and an overwhelming sense of what might have been. A meandering career took him to Real Madrid, back to PSG, Liverpool, Manchester City, Fenerbache and Bolton. On Friday he signed for Chelsea in a reported £15 million move.
"It is my biggest regret that he moved from Arsenal at that time [in 1999] because I felt at that time he was a star here," said Wenger at his pre-match press conference on Friday. "When he left he was a regular member in the French squad. He moved to Real Madrid, Thierry Henry moved here and Thierry played in the European Championship but Nicolas didn't play.
"I still believe that at that time it was a big mistake that move. But there are two lessons: the first one is you need to be at the right club at the right moment. And the second is that when you have as much talent as Nicolas you can always bounce back because the talent at that level is not everywhere."
Wenger admitted a reconciliation was in his mind after another fleet-footed French striker left last summer.
"When Henry wanted to leave you always consider if you are strong enough," he said. "I decided to go with Bendtner and then I signed Eduardo. But you consider all the strikers available.
"I feel that Nicolas has had a funny career because he has the talent to play in every club in the worldâ€¦ and he has played in nearly every club in the world. There's Arsenal, Real Madrid, PSG, Liverpool, Chelsea but in between it looks like he takes some breathers below.
"I feel this signing for Chelsea could be decisive because
they will not feel the absence of Drogba as much. But they have so
much talent that when Drogba comes back and they play with him and
Anelka, which is very possible, somebody else will have to move
"So the good news is that they have one world class player more, but they have to move another world class player out."