How Samir Nasri shot back to the top and why a former teammate should follow his footsteps.
In South Africa 2010, just four years after reaching the WC Final in Berlin, Les Bleus endured their most embarrassing debacle of the modern era. Fights broke out in training, players went on strike against the manager, and worst of all, the team crashed out of a group consisting of Mexico, Uruguay, and the hosts.
Surprisingly, Samir Nasri, who will never play for his country again, was not at all involved in this scandal. Instead, the decision to retire from international duty in August 2014 was made entirely of his own volition. Explaining his decision, the Frenchman spoke of the “suffering”, “accusations”, and “trouble” that his family endured every time he joined the team.
This past October he reiterated his intentions, stating:
“I wouldn’t go back even if my dad was in charge. I have said it 100 times and I am a man of my word. When I say something I don’t go back on it.”
Samir Nasri has had an up-and-down club career since joining Manchester City for £24 million in 2011. But injuries have always been the issue, not a lack of talent or form. The midfielder made just 13 appearances in 2015/16, and arriving overweight to preseason was the final straw for a merciless Pep Guardiola. Pep ordered Nasri to train separately from the first-team, and a few months later his loan move to Spanish side Sevilla was complete.
As it turns out, this was the perfect decision.
The Frenchman’s resurgence this season has gone under the radar in no small part due to the lack of an international stage. Nevertheless, Samir Nasri has been the best player on one of the most in-form teams in Europe (despite their failures in the Champions League).
Although 3 goals and 1 assist in 11 appearances doesn’t stand out, one must keep in mind that Nasri has been featuring as a holding/central midfielder alongside Steven Nzonzi, dictating play from deep and retaining possession. And according to him, that’s where he feels at home.
“My favorite position is holding midfield because I can get on the ball and be at the centre of the team.
I don’t like playing on the wing and if I have played there it is because the coach put me there because he thought that was best.”
Not to mention the Frenchman could have scored about 5 or 6 more goals with better finishing. This compilation shows just how close Nasri has been to what would be an astonishing return for a midfielder.
Despite the mediocre finishing, these clips show what makes Samir Nasri one of the best midfielders in Europe on form. He has the touch of an angel, can dribble past anybody, and most of all, he is incredibly creative on the ball. In the same vein of players such as Zidane, Iniesta, and David Silva, Nasri is more of an artist than a footballer (in fact, he was touted as the new “Zinedine Zidane” as he rose to fame in Ligue 1).
He conceives pictures on the pitch that nobody else can see, all the while maintaining incredible precision and composure. For those who witnessed the 2010/11 season at Arsenal that earned his move to Manchester City, none of these things should sound unfamiliar.
One take-away from this piece is that Samir Nasri is an absurdly talented player, and football fans shouldn’t forget that. Premier League fans in particular should be worried because his eyes are set on returning to Pep’s side.
“If I stay working with Pep Guardiola, if he wants me, he’s just going to be a lucky man because I will be really hungry. I am the type of player for his philosophy and the way he likes his team to play.”
However, the main moral of the story is something different. Although Arsenal fans aren’t exactly fond of the 29-year-old, the Gunners could really take a page out of his book. The man I’m referring to is none other than Jack Wilshere, who is now playing for Bournemouth on loan after countless injury setbacks.
Differences in culture and settling in with family have always been two massive obstacles for English talent in search of playing time. But Nasri has proven just how incredibly rewarding a move abroad can be for a player’s career. The two (former) Arsenal teammates are extremely similar. Both are central midfielders, love to be on the ball, and revolve their game around passing.
It’s no surprise at all that Nasri has flourished in Spain where just about every team is obsessed with possession and the passing side of football. There’s no doubt that Wilshere would excel in exactly the same way in a league where players value keeping the ball over making tough tackles (and getting injured in the process).
After a loan move to Roma broke down, it seems there’s no chance of Wilshere ever moving to Spain. But in my mind, there would be no better option.
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