Sunil Chhetri's presence will be a big plus for us: Nicolas Anelka
He has never seen Sunil Chhetri in action but Mumbai City FC's star player-cum-manager Nicolas Anelka is confident that the Indian national team captain will prove to be a "big plus" for the team.
Mumbai: He has never seen Sunil Chhetri in action but Mumbai City FC's star player-cum-manager Nicolas Anelka is confident that the Indian national team captain will prove to be a "big plus" for the team.
"Everybody told me he (Sunil) is a very good player. I don't know him personally and will try to speak to him. He will miss 1-2 games initially (because of couple of World Cup qualifiers). We are happy to have him in the team. I think he will be a big plus for the team," former Chelsea and Real Madrid star Anelka told media persons here on Saturday.
Delighted to be back at Mumbai City FC in a dual role, Anelka wants to help the Ranbir Kapoor co-owned franchise win the second edition of the Indian Super League (ISL) starting October 3.
"I am happy to be back. We have a bigger and better squad this season. Last season, we had a good team but were a little bit unlucky -- like injuries (to key players). This time the players' desire is to do better (than last year) and my personal desire is to reach, at the minimum, the semis," said the former French international.
The 36-year-old player, who represented top European clubs like Chelsea, Arsenal and Real Madrid in his illustrious career, said he was looking forward to the extra workload as manager of the Mumbai ISL franchise this season, insisting it added no additional pressure on him.
"As a player, you concentrate on the game (only), but as a manager you have to do a lot more. It's going to be more work for me. I have been working with a lot of managers and I know how to speak to the players, keep them confident and also take out the best from them."
Anelka was happy that this season the team would be able to rotate its players, including strikers.
"We have a big squad. We have a better squad this season and have a lot of strikers. We will be able to rotate our players. I would like to say to every one -- if you are playing today you may not play the next game, but don't feel sad or bad."
Having played under several managers, Anelka has a clear idea about what qualities a football manager should possess.
"A good manager, for me, is one who puts a player (to play) in right position. If, for example, one striker would play in the middle, I won't play him on the side (wing).
"I will ask in which position the player will feel comfortable. I will speak a lot to them. Understanding the players is very important (as manager). I have been in football for 20 years now. I know what to do."
However, Anelka did not see himself in a full-time managerial role, for the present at least.
"I am 36 and am more towards the end than the beginning as a player. First, I want to finish as a player. I am doing this only this season and am not looking to become a full-time manager, but you never know.
"It's not a usual job to be player-manager, but I will try my best as a player first. I need to understand what is happening on the pitch and outside as well. (The advantage is) I know the (Mumbai City) players from last year.
"If you have a good understanding with the manager, you can do a lot more (as a player)," he added.
Anelka had good words to say about ISL and confidently predicted the new initiative in Indian football will grow bigger and attract better players in the coming seasons.
"I did not know the level (standard of football) before coming to India. The level is good, if you put (include) the weather and time to rest between games last season. It was quite difficult to manage and be 100 per cent. But this year it's better with more gaps between the games. But it's going to be hot like last year," he said.
"Next season and in coming years you will see bigger names coming. It will be good for the show, for India and Indian football. You will see the level will rise higher and higher. I have nothing negative to say about last season. It was perfect."
He steered clear of the huge bribery scandal that has enveloped football's world governing body - FIFA.
"I don't know about their problem. This is FIFA -- more politics than football. I will focus on football," the veteran footballer said.