Nicolas Anelka signs for Mumbai City FC

Controversial French striker Nicolas Anelka sought to relaunch his career Monday by signing up for the nascent Indian Super League, six months after being sacked from English football in an anti-semitism row.

The 35-year-old former Arsenal, Chelsea, Juventus and Real Madrid star announced that he would be playing for Mumbai City in the inaugural edition of the eight-team league which begins next month.

“I am pleased to join Mumbai City FC and through it participate in the exciting Indian Super League,” Anelka said in a club statement.

“Talented international players and top Indian talent will make matches thrilling affairs. I look forward to using my ability to do well for my team in the matches we play.”

Anelka tweeted on his move.

Anelka is the latest in a string of big name signings for the league, including former Italy star Alessandro del Piero, Spanish striker Luis Garcia and ex-England goalkeeper David James.

The tournament, which runs from Oct 12 to Dec 20, is aiming to capitalise on growing interest among Indians in football despite the overwhelming popularity of cricket in the country. The 10-week tournament is modelled along the lines of cricket’s cash-rich Indian Premier League (IPL).

Anelka has been without a club since he was fired by West Bromwich Albion in March for “gross misconduct” after he made an alleged anti-semitic gesture known as a quenelle as a goal-scoring celebration.

His sacking was the latest in a long of history of rows and disputes over the course of a career which has seen him play for 11 different clubs in six different countries before heading to India.

Delighted to have Anelka

Bollywood heart-throb Ranbir Kapoor, who is the owner of Mumbai City, expressed his delight over the signing of Anelka.

“We are delighted to announce the signing of Nicolas Anelka and thrilled that a player with a stunning pedigree such as his is part of our team,” Kapoor said.

“His abilities and experience are known the world over and I am certain his presence will give us the firepower required upfront.”

While India are only 150th in the world rankings, football draws big crowds in some parts of the country – particularly the east – and has been dubbed the game’s “sleeping giant” by Sepp Blatter, president of the world governing body Fifa. - AFP