Pepe Mel: 'Nicolas Anelka is a very important player'

Betis' coach Pepe Mel reacts during the UEFA Europa league Group I football match Real Betis vs Vitoria Guimaraes at the Benito Villamarin stadium in Sevilla on October 24, 2013
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West Bromwich Albion boss Pepe Mel singles out Nicolas Anelka as a "very important player" for his side despite the continued controversy over his 'quenelle' gesture.

West Bromwich Albion manager Pepe Mel has said that Nicolas Anelka is a "very important player" for his side.

Anelka's season has been shrouded in controversy after he made a 'quenelle' gesture with anti-semitic connotations while celebrating a goal during his side's 3-3 draw with West Ham United last month.

The FA's investigation into the incident is said to be nearing a conclusion, while the Baggies' sponsors Zoopla today announced that they would no longer be in partnership with the club after this season.

However, despite the controversy, Mel named Anelka in his starting lineup for tonight's match against Everton, and he was keen to focus the pre-match attention on beating the Toffees.

"Everything has gone really well the players have shown a lot of desire and I am sure that everything will go really well," Mel told Sky Sports News.

"Nicolas Anelka is a very important player for us and what is important for me is to beat Everton. We want the players to show hunger and desire and stay on the ball.

"Everything has gone really well, the players have shown a lot of desire. I'm happy, this is a dream for me."

West Brom have won just one of their last 12 matches in all competitions and sit just three points clear of the relegation zone.

New West Bromwich Albion manager Pepe Mel faces the media before the press conference to announce his arrival, at The Hawthorns on January 16, 2014
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