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Real distracted by Anelka motivational woes

HDN | 9/13/1999 12:00:00 AM |

Coach John Toshack says he is not worried about the Anelka affair and the young striker will come around once he gets in good physical shape Madrid, Spain - The AP In full damage-control mode, Real Madrid plays Athletic Bilbao today with all eyes on 35-million-dollar man Nicolas Anelka, quoted as saying he doesn't enjoy soccer any more and may quit. From cabbies to businessmen, people around Spain and elsewhere in Europe are scratching their heads over the 20-year-old Frenchman billed by team

  • Coach John Toshack says he is not worried about the Anelka affair and the young striker will come around once he gets in good physical shape
  • Madrid, Spain - The AP

    In full damage-control mode, Real Madrid plays Athletic Bilbao today with all eyes on 35-million-dollar man Nicolas Anelka, quoted as saying he doesn't enjoy soccer any more and may quit.

    From cabbies to businessmen, people around Spain and elsewhere in Europe are scratching their heads over the 20-year-old Frenchman billed by team management as a future superstar but derided by many fans as a moody, overpaid prima donna.

    The affair is a distraction first-place Real Madrid doesn't need two weeks into a season in which it hopes to unseat FC Barcelona as champion, and as it prepares to start Champions' League play next week.

    Anelka has played part of both Spanish League games but did not score in either.

    All week everybody but Anelka himself has weighed in on the media-shy striker's reported remarks Monday to a British newspaper that people expect too much of him and soccer just isn't any fun for him anymore.

    Leading the spin-control was his brother and agent, Didier, who said those comments to the Evening Standard were taken out of context. "There is no doubt about it, he is sad. But he is going to keep playing football," Didier Anelka told the sports daily As.

    Team doctor Alfonso del Corral told El Mundo that for now at least, Anelka will not be asked to undergo therapy for depression.

    Spanish news reports suggest that Real Madrid president Lorenzo Sanz has all but ordered Anelka to go before the press Friday, explain himself and publicly reembrace soccer.

    It was Sanz who declared last month when he agreed to pay Arsenal 35.5 million dollars for Anelka - the costliest transfer in Spanish soccer history - that the acquisition was "madness, but beautiful madness."

    Coach John Toshack said he is not worried about the Anelka affair and the young striker will come around once he gets in good physical shape. "I don't understand all these doubts about him," Toshack said, although he declined to say if or how much Anelka would play today in Bilbao.

    Spanish papers pointed out that Anelka did not play at all in France's 3-2 win on Wednesday against Armenia in a Euro 2000 qualifier. They said this could be to his advantage, leaving him fresh for this weekend.

    Coincidentally, FC Barcelona has star problems too. Rivaldo returns from a stellar performance for his native Brazil against Argentina - three goals, an assist and lots of heart-stopping chances - miffed with FC Barcelona president Jose Luis Nunez over money. Rivaldo says the team leaked a letter in which he discussed an alleged promise from Nunez to raise his salary. "I am hurt," Rivaldo said from Rio de Janeiro. "It is surprising, and I still do not understand it."

    Elsewhere in the League today, 10th-place Celta travels to winless and goal-less Atletico Madrid, while second place Rayo Vallecano, a Madrid team promoted this season from Second Division, hosts Real Sociedad.

    In other action Malaga takes on Betis, Oviedo plays Racing, Sevilla faces Zaragoza and Mallorca plays newcomer Numancia.

    ( $=438.681 TL Official Rate)

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