Why are Juventus signing a 33-year-old striker who scored three goals in 22 games in China?

Nicolas Anelka arrives in Turin after a thoroughly disappointing year in the Far East, and will be expected to hit the ground running for a side who have suffered a dip of late
By Kris Voakes | Italian Football Writer

It is a rollercoaster of a transfer window which starts with murmurings of Edinson Cavani, Radamel Falcao, Fernando Llorente, Robert Lewandowski, even Didier Drogba, but ends with the revelation that Nicolas Anelka is the best your club can attract. When it happens for Juventus Football Club - reigning Serie A champions and league leaders - it is all the more galling.

The addition of Anelka will certainly add something to the Juve forward line, but there are certain levels that the Bianconeri should be aiming to reach in everything they do, and that has not really been attained this time around. The Frenchman will arguably provide a better quality of finish in and around the box than has been in evidence from the club’s current crop of strikers this season, but that’s not exactly difficult. The defeat to Lazio in the Coppa Italia semi-final second leg was just the latest showcase of Juventus’ abysmal conversion rate in the final third, and something certainly needed to be done about it.

But what does it say about the club if they are only able to turn to a 33-year-old who has just experienced the worst spell of his nomadic career since he first broke into the Paris Saint-Germain team at the age of 16? Perhaps director general Giuseppe Marotta and sporting director Fabio Paratici looked upon his period in China with Shanghai Shenhua with a sympathetic eye. As Goal.com China’s Tony Mutong explains, there were some extenuating circumstances behind his disappointing year in the Far East, which spawned only three goals in 22 Chinese Super League fixtures.

A NOMADIC EXISTENCE | Anelka's club career

1996-97 Paris Saint-Germain 12 1 0.08
1997-99 Arsenal 90 28 0.31
1999-00 Real Madrid 31 7 0.23
2000-02 Paris Saint-Germain 56 18 0.32
2002 Liverpool 22 5 0.23
2002-05 Manchester City 103 45 0.44
2005-06 Fenerbahce 57 16 0.28
2006-08 Bolton 61 23 0.38
2008-12 Chelsea 183 59 0.32
2012-13 Shanghai Shenhua 27 4 0.15

“In my opinion, there are three reasons why things went so badly for Anelka in China,” explains Tony. “The club's owner Zhu Jun didn't tell Anelka the truth before he signed. He told the French striker that Shanghai Shenhua were one of the most famous clubs in China, which was far from correct, and other than their four foreign stars, the first-team players were not really good.

“Anelka was also a little bit selfish. Many Chinese players admired him, but they didn't dare be near him. When Drogba came, he was more welcomed, but only because he would talk more and smile more than Anelka.

“Then in April, Anelka was added to the coaching staff, but after five rounds his job was given to Sergio Batista. Having taken the role very seriously, he was shocked by the snub, and basically lost his passion for the Chinese league.”

So the striker’s poor return on the pitch can be put down to a number of factors, but since his own attitude was key to much of that, there is no inevitability about that improving in Turin. He has been known for Le Sulk for much of his career, and if he is not playing regularly for the Bianconeri, will he live up to his name?

There are so many question marks over his six-month transfer, but Juventus will be hoping that he can add enough goals to make a difference as they look to get their Scudetto march back on track and add a good Champions League run to their CV.

But, as happened with the loan signing of Nicklas Bendtner in the summer, Marotta could easily have admitted publicly that Anelka was not the droid they were looking for. And no matter what the whys and where-fors of his time at Shanghai Shenhua, Juventini will be disappointed that their club have recruited below their station for a second successive transfer window.

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