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A decade on: The impossible task of replacing Chelsea bound Nicolas Anelka

Bolton Wanderers' struggle to replace one of the best strikers the club ever had

New Chelsea football club signing French Photo credit should read SHAUN CURRY/AFP/Getty Images

Scrolling through twitter this morning, something jumped out at me. It was the fact that on this day ten years ago, Chelsea confirmed the signing of Bolton Wanderers striker Nicolas Anelka.

After a strong debut season with Wanderers, Anelka’s name had constantly been in the gossip columns, linking him with the likes of Manchester United and Chelsea.

The man once dubbed ‘Le Sulk’ continued his goalscoring streak in the 2007/2008 season. Due to Anelka’s scintillating form, bigger clubs came calling in the January transfer window. It would be Chelsea, managed then by Avram Grant, who bought Anelka for a fee of £15 million.

Nicolas Anelka scored 23 goals in just 61 games for Bolton. Despite only spending eighteen months as a Wanderer, Bolton fans never saw a player who lived up to the ‘Le Sulk’ tagline.

We saw a committed player, who goes down in history as one of the best players to wear a Whites shirt.

Something that Wanderers and Gary Megson failed to do was to sign a genuine replacement for Anelka.

His departure had become an inevitability. His form, coupled with the fact Wanderers were stuck in a relegation fight, meant he was always going to move on.

In that window, Megson spent money on improving Wanderers’ defence and midfield. £5 million was spent on Gary Cahill, whilst £3.5 was spent on Gretar Steinsson and the same fee for Matty Taylor.

A new striker seemed to be the aim, and as the window dragged on, a new forward still hadn’t arrived. Press speculation had linked Bolton with former Liverpool striker Djibril Cisse and Real Madrid striker Javier Saviola, both of whom would have been adequate replacements for Anelka.

Johan Elmander was another name linked, and he would eventually be Anelka’s successor in the Summer.

But for January, Gary Megson opted for a real panic signing.

On transfer deadline day 2008, former Tottenham Hotspur striker Grzegorz Rasiak arrived on loan from Southampton. It’s fair to say Rasiak was a monumental flop. No goals in seven games certainly proved that.

Speaking about the situation of trying to replace Anelka later on that season, Megson was quoted as saying: “It wasn’t for the want of trying”.

Megson also described trying to replace Nicolas Anelka as ‘impossible’ and for once, it’s hard to disagree with him.

He was arguably the best finisher Wanderers ever had in the Premier League, so how do you replace that?

Wanderers went on to stay up that season, whilst also reaching the last 16 of the UEFA Cup.