Anelka: Misunderstood – Netflix Documentary Review

A Misunderstood Player Shrouded In Controversy

At the height of his career, Nicolas Anelka was untouchable on the football field. With raw talent honed from a young age, Anelka went on to become one of the most prolific French footballers in the world. However, that fame also came at a cost. With controversy following at every turn, Anelka found himself isolated both on and off the pitch, eventually capitulating at the South African world cup where his footballing career came to a close.

Across 90 minutes, Misunderstood looks at all the controversy and career highlights of a man few really understood. Those that did however, lend their voices to this documentary. Alongside Anelka, plenty of his French colleagues pop up to give their thoughts including Arsene Wenger, Thierry Henry and Patrice Evra. This helps break up the archival footage, which includes footballing highlights both on and off the pitch.

Now living in Dubai, Nicolas Anelka: Misunderstood is an unflinching look at a man who, after 20 years playing at the top, decided enough was enough and forged his own legacy going forward. Oftentimes vilified by the French media after his antics, Anelka gives his opinion on a lot of different incidents that occurred through the years. His spat with French manager Raymond Domenech for example, is put under the spotlight here and it’s telling that the French newspapers refused to be interviewed for this documentary film.

Some of that vilification came from Anelka’s early career, when he turned his back on PSG and set his sights overseas. This subsequently changed the way French transfers worked going forward and opened the door for other youths to snub the Bosman rule that had held for such a long time.

Interestingly, Anelka: Misunderstood is not just a biographical piece on Nicholas Anelka’s life but also an examination of free press and journalistic integrity. While some of the discussions points are shocking (journos snapping photos through open curtains etc.) they’re also not surprising if you’ve read books written by other big sport stars. Despite that though, it remains interesting to see how the media’s opinion of players flip-flops between games.

With some great material and plenty of big talking points, Anelka: Misunderstood is a fascinating and engaging film. It’s a documentary that touches on the highs and lows of a misunderstood player shrouded in controversy for much of his career. Whether you’re a football fan or not, Anelka: Misunderstood is well worth a watch.

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  • Verdict - 8/10

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