Player to watch: Samir Nasri, Manchester City man with second life at Sevilla

Photo: Julio Munoz / EPA; Illustration: Jonathan Raymond / The National
Photo: Julio Munoz / EPA; Illustration: Jonathan Raymond / The National

As Pep Guardiola’s revolution gathers pace at Manchester City, a number of City employees unwanted by the new coach of the Premier League pacesetters have points to make elsewhere. Not least Samir Nasri, loaned out to Sevilla for the season and already making an impression in Spain.

Derby delight

Last Wednesday night, Nasri ensured himself a bank of credit in the affections of Sevilla fans.

Playing in his first Seville derby against Real Betis, a famously fierce rivalry, Nasri set up the evening’s only goal with a precise cross from a free-kick, one of his specialisms. His new club are unbeaten this season and victory in the derby took them up to second in the Primera Liga table.

Cosmopolitan crew

Nasri, born in France, the grandson of Algerians, and formerly of Marseille, Arsenal and City, declared almost as soon as he arrived in Andalucia: “I feel at home here.”

Sevilla are a multi-national squad. Last weekend, while Nasri sat out the match at Eibar with a minor injury, he watched his teammates make history in the Spanish top flight, by fielding an XI without a single Spain-qualified player in it. That had not happened before in the league.

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French tradition

Sevilla, whose new manager is the Argentinian Jorge Sampaoli, could even line up with a majority of Frenchmen in their starting side. Nasri’s colleagues include compatriots Adil Rami, Steven N’Zonzi, Wissam Ben Yedder, Benoit Tremoulinas and Timothee Kolodziejczak.

Bleus boycott

What Nasri will not be doing any time in the foreseeable future is joining any of them on international duty. He won the last of his 41 caps for France almost three years ago, and has fallen out badly and publicly with French head coach Didier Deschamps. He announced his retirement from international football in 2014 and spent his 29th birthday, in June, watching from afar the team Rami was helping towards second place at the European championship.

Past prodigy

Nasri was certainly expected to have a more prominent, enduring international career. Having scored the winning goal in the 2004 under-17 European championship final – against Spain – the young Nasri was hailed as the future face of French football, his neat work on the ball likened to that of Zinedine Zidane, his expertise with a dead ball compared with that of another French grand master, Michel Platini.

In spite of his successes – including two Premier League titles with City – since, he has fallen short of reaching the heights foreseen for him in his teens.

“I want to make up for lost time,” he said of the new, Seville chapter in his career.

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Published: September 23, 2016 04:00 AM

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