As a player, Nicolas Anelka fell out with many of his managers, including Real Madrid boss Vicente del Bosque, Liverpool manager Gerard Houllier, Chelsea coach Andre Villas-Boas and French national coaches Jacques Santini and Raymond Domenech.
Nicolas Anelka. Pic/Shadab Khan
Now the shoe will be on the other foot as the Frenchman plays the dual role of player-manager for Mumbai City FC in the second edition of the Indian Super League, which begins on October 3.
Anelka, who looks up to managers like Carlo Ancelotti (his boss at Chelsea) and Antonio Conte (Juventus), believes that deploying players in their right position and communicating with them will be critical to playing the managerial role to perfection. "I’ve worked with a lot of managers. I know how to make players feel confident and get the best out of them. I will speak a lot with my teammates as I think it is important to have an understanding with them.
"For me, a good manager is one who will put a player in his right position. If I have a striker, I won’t play him on the wings. Before the season starts, I will ask each player what his best position is," he told reporters on Saturday.
Anelka, who has earlier played a similar player-manager role for a few months at Chinese club Shanghai Shenhua in 2012, revealed that he was not thinking about moving into coaching after his career ends. "I have no plans to be a manager. I’m only doing this for a season. But you never say never.
"As a player, you just concentrate on your game. You have a lot of work as a manager. It’s going to be tough as it’s not common to be a player and manager at the same time," he said.
Anelka also said that he would have no qualms benching himself if he was under-performing. "If I don’t score for four games, I’ll put myself on the bench. We have a lot of strikers, so we will be able to rotate. If I’m going to play myself, it will be because I think I am good enough. As a manager I have to be clever. All strikers want to play. I have been in football for over 20 years and I know what to think as a manager.
"Once I have trained with the players I’ll see what is the best squad and the best tactics," Anelka said.
The switch to managing a team will also mean that Anelka will have to face the media more often — a prospect that the self-confessed introvert isn’t looking forward to. "I’m not looking forward to it (talking to journalists) for sure. I’m very quiet. I don’t like speaking to the press. Because now I have a coaching role, I will do the minimum — I will do it because I have to do it," he said.