Seemingly out of nowhere, Netflix has released a new feature-length documentary about Nicolas Anelka. You can watch it right now. It doesn’t have the immense scale or drama of The Last Dance – how could it – but it’s still a treat, and a well-told story about a genuinely intriguing footballer. Early reviews indicate that it will do well for Netflix. (We’ll just have to wait a bit longer for Amazon’s Spurs doc.)
I think Anelka has always believed he’s more misunderstood and criticised than he actually is, something which caused tension throughout his career. A lot of great sportsmen seem to have that “everyone in the world is against me” viewpoint, including Michael Jordan – hence the inevitable comparisons between Misunderstood and The Last Dance. Jordan used perceived slights as a constant fuel in his furnace. This, combined with supernatural athletic ability, is how he achieved greatness. Anelka was also a supreme athlete but he was much less certain of how to feed off such tension, perhaps because his ego is fragile. Where Jordan raged, Anelka sulked and brooded. Having to work under men like Raymond Domenech – let’s just say he is no Phil Jackson – didn’t help.
If you’re looking to kill 90 minutes and there’s no live game to watch, Anelka: Misunderstood is ideal. And if you’ve watched The Last Dance already, this works as a fascinating counterpoint.