The much travelled striker arrived at Maine Road at the start of June 2002 after a potential move to Liverpool did not materialise. The Frenchman had been on loan at Anfield from Paris St. Grermain and it was expected he would complete a permanent move to Merseyside. When Liverpool boss, Gerald Houllier turned his back on the signing, Kevin Keegan, who had been monitoring developments closely, moved quickly to seal the deal.
He played as a lone striker in City's opening defeat at Leeds but was then paired with Darren Huckerby and in the second home game of the season against Everton scored a hat-trick, his first since his days at Arsenal when he bagged three goals in a game against Leicester. The last goal of the game, in which City had been reduced to ten men after Shaun Wright-Phillips had been sent off, was a stunning strike from the edge of the area from an acute angle.
Anelka managed to net twice against his old club Arsenal during the season, although both games ended in defeat. The goals were not as forthcoming in the second half of the season, but he grabbed a brace at Anfield against his former team mates. Anelka nonchantly stroked home a penalty in front of the Kop end and then got the winner in time added on with a classy left foot strike to end his first season as a Blue with fourteen goals.
In November 2002 Anelka refused to link up with the national side for their friendly with Yugoslavia, after being called up as a late replacement. Anelka had not played for France since April 2002 and was overlooked for the World Cup campaign, that ended in misery for France. France's football federation subsequently asked Fifa to ban him from club football, but Anelka was supported by the FA because of a violation of FIFA regulations by the French Football Federation (FFF). A statement on the FA's official website www.the-fa.org read: "Fifa's regulations makes it clear that both a player and a club must be notified in writing at least 15 days before the date of the match for which the player is requested. "The correspondence received by Nicolas Anelka and Manchester City notifying the player of his selection is clearly dated 18 November, only two days before the match date."
Anelka experienced much of a love-hate relationship with the fans. During the fall 2004 he found himself under fire after expressing his desire to play for a top European club (not rating City as one of them) to a French football magazine. This did not at all go down well with the fans, and he was booed off the pitch during the following home game.
When the transfer window opened in January 2005, Anelka was widely tipped as the major striker to move clubs. He also spent the whole month out with a mysterious back injury that kept him out of the team in a period when City were experiencing all kinds of highs and lows in terms of results. The rejuvenated Robbie Fowler led Citys strike force at the time and won a lot of fans over with his committed display.
In the end it was Turkish league leaders Fenerbahce that lured the French striker away from COMS. After a fee of approximately £7m was agreed between the clubs, Nic signed a three-and-a-half year contract, with an option for a further 12 months.
Anelka left after two and a half years at Manchester represent a longer
stay than at any of his four previous clubs. He managed to enter the 100+
club with a total of 103 games for the Blues (all competitions), and he
also scored 45 goals for City, making him one of the clubs most prolific
goal-scorers since WWII.