WEST BROMWICH, England – Striker Nicolas Anelka says he is leaving Premier League club West Bromwich Albion immediately after being suspended for five matches for a goal celebration regarding as anti-Semitic.
Anelka said on his Twitter account Friday he decided to leave the club after being offered "to rejoin the group under certain conditions I can't accept." He was suspended by the Football Association.
Anelka performed the gesture as he celebrated scoring in West Brom's 3-3 draw with West Ham. The gesture involves pointing one straightened arm downward while touching the shoulder with the opposite hand. It was popularized by French comedian Dieudonne M'Bala M'Bala, who has been convicted for inciting racial hatred and anti-Semitism.
"Wishing to keep my integrity, I took the decision to free myself and end the contract linking me with West Bromwich Albion until 2014, with immediate effect," Anelka said.
In January, Anelka hinted he could retire at the end of the season, but also mentioned interests from other clubs, including Lazio, in signing him.
After his suspension was announced at the end of February, both Anelka and West Brom decided not to appeal the sanction. In Anelka's witness statement, the striker said he became aware of Dieudonne in about 2000, met him once, and watched recordings of his shows. He said he made the gesture "purely to say hello to my friend."
Anelka, who had previously been photographed performing the salute, joined West Brom last summer after two disappointing seasons at Shanghai Shenhua and Juventus.
The former Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester City, Bolton and Chelsea player is one of the most talented and controversial players France has produced since former Manchester United great Eric Cantona.
Anelka caused the biggest controversy of his career with the French national team, when he was sent home from the 2010 World Cup after insulting then-coach Raymond Domenech in the dressing room. Anelka refused to apologize and ended his international career in the wake of the scandal with 14 goals in 69 appearances.