Chelsea striker Nicolas Anelka has claimed that the reason behind him leaving Arsenal for Real Madrid in 1999 after only two-years at Highbury was due to what the French International perceived as a lack of appreciation from the fans at the North London club.
The Gunners were stunned when Anelka left Arsenal for La Liga giants Real in a £23million deal after scoring 22 goals for Arsenal that season. This was after helping Arsenal to a Premier League and FA Cup double in 1998, Anelka’s debut season in the Premiership after his switch from Paris St Germain in 1997.
Anelka has now claimed that he was furious after a poll by Gunners fans in 1998 thought he was not the forward to fill the boots of Arsenal legend Ian Wright at the North London club.
Anelka told the News of the World: “When I started the season there was a poll because I had taken the place of Ian Wright.
“I thought the fans really wanted it to be me and were pleased with me. But seeing the result in the papers and on TV hit me hard because I had done things for nothing.
Anelka went on to reveal that he had planned his exit from Arsenal to spite the Gunners fans and went through with his plan, despite being named PFA Young Player of the Year in his final season at Arsene Wenger’s side.
“I thought 'So that's how it is. This is how you thank me. Okay now you watch what is going to happen. I am going to play, score my goals and just when you are saying Anelka, Anelka that's when I'm going to leave,” Anelka continued.
"And that is exactly what I did because I was furious with them."
However, Anelka did concede that telling Wenger he wanted to leave Arsenal was one of the hardest things he has had to do, with the Frenchman saying that the Arsenal manager represented something extraordinary in his life.
He added: “I am not saying I was ashamed, but I felt something and had no wish to tell him face to face that I wanted to go.
“It's as if it was a betrayal. I didn't want to tell him because he represented someone extraordinary in my life.”