Sven Goran Eriksson has spent more time than most managers trying to sign the striker who poses the biggest threat to his sixth-placed Manchester City side today.
Eriksson joined the Lazio directors for the best part of a Sunday in the home of Arsenal director David Dein back in the summer of 1999, trying to strike a deal with Arsène Wenger for a then youthful Nicolas Anelka from the Gunners and the talks also took the French striker's family to Italy, where he met the Swede. But the deal to sign Anelka, with whom City have been linked in recent months, fell through. "At a certain point it broke down," Eriksson said yesterday. "He was a very, very young footballer and I certainly don't hold that against him. He has everything you can wish from a striker – quality, technique, pace, he scores goals, big and strong."
Eriksson has asserted several times his belief that City proprietor Thaksin Shinawatra would only lay out big money on young players and the 25-year-old Brazilian Adriano, whom the Thai indicated his interest in last week, would appear to be on the outer limit of his age range. But Eriksson said that age would not be a factor if a player like Anelka were under consideration. "Dr Thaksin is a businessman. He is more likely to spend huge money on young players than others but Anelka [who is 28] would not be a problem. Age wouldn't matter."
Bolton badly need Anelka to add to his nine-goal tally this season as they arrive at a stadium where City have chalked up eight straight Premier League wins – a home record unmatched by any in the division – and may be boosted by the return of Elano after a two-match absence because of a hamstring problem.
Despite a 4-0 thumping of Wigan last weekend, in which Anelka missed a penalty and scored, Wanderers' defence looked rudimentary at times and City will hope to capitalise. German midfielder Dietmar Hamann also comes back into contention after being suspended, though Stephen Ireland sits out the first game of his three-match ban after being sent off at White Hart Lane.
Bolton have taken nine points from six league games under their new manager Gary Megson, seeing them climb from joint-bottom to 14th in the league. But they remain a place off the relegation spots, leading Megson to caution against over-optimism. "We're out of the relegation zone but one bad result for us and a couple of decent results below us and we're back in it again, so we've certainly not achieved anything yet," he said.
City have inflicted one of Megson's two defeats so far, with Elano's late penalty giving them a 1-0 Carling Cup win at the Reebok.