WEST BROMWICH, England (AP) — Striker Nicolas Anelka announced Friday he was leaving West Bromwich Albion and terminating his contract with immediate effect after being suspended for five matches by the Football Association for a racially aggravated goal celebration.
The Premier League club responded by saying the player's statement was invalid but that it is firing him for "gross misconduct" over the announcement and criticized him for posting it on Twitter — creating yet another spat involving the controversial player.
The former France forward was suspended last month for performing a gesture which is known in France as a "quenelle" and regarded as anti-Semitic.
Anelka said on his Twitter account on Friday that he decided to leave the club because he could not accept West Brom's conditions for being allowed back into the squad.
"Proposals have been made for me to rejoin the group under certain conditions that I can't accept," Anelka said in French on his 35th birthday. "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."
However, West Brom said Anelka had not informed the club of his decision and that his "purported termination of his Premier League contract this evening via social media was invalid as this was not conducted under the correct legal process as required by his contract."
It added that it considered the statement to be gross misconduct and wrote to Anelka on Friday giving him 14 days' notice of termination — "as required under his contract" — leaving no doubt that he has played his last game for the club, and possibly his career.
In January, Anelka hinted that he could retire at the end of the season but also mentioned interests from clubs including Lazio in signing him.
Anelka performed the quenelle as he celebrated scoring in West Brom's 3-3 draw with West Ham last December. 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.
West Brom said its conditions for allowing Anelka to resume training included the player apologizing to fans, sponsors and "the wider community" as well as accepting a fine.