The timing felt sadly fitting. The news emerged in the week Manchester City won the League Cup. When they did so four years ago, Samir Nasri was goalscorer, man of the match and a catalyst in a side that was headed for the title. Now, with Uefa announcing he is serving a six-month ban for an anti-doping violation, they feel distant days.
Nasri had an intravenous drip treatment in a Los Angeles hotel room in 2016. The fact that he posed for a photograph with the owner of the private medical company he used suggests he thought he was doing nothing wrong, and his ban can be appealed. Yet Uefa’s statement said he was guilty of using “a prohibited method”. At the least, it is evidence of ignorance and stupidity.
He cannot play again until August. There will be no World Cup for him. Nor does he have a club, with his contract at Antalyaspor cancelled by mutual consent in January. It highlights the poor decision-making of a man who seems to have fallen out with too many people. It is a waste.
Because it is easy to forget how good he was. Nasri was arguably the outstanding player in England for the first half of the 2010/11 season. He was wanted by both Manchester clubs, choosing Roberto Mancini’s City over Alex Ferguson’s United. He was genuinely brilliant in 2013/14, a major reason why City scored 156 goals in all competitions and, the mirror image of David Silva, each coming infield from a flank to specialise in creative close-combination play. He showed his talents in a partnership of opposites with Steven Nzonzi in a deeper midfield role for Sevilla last season. He began Euro 2012 in a superstar front three with Franck Ribery and Karim Benzema, scoring France’s first goal of the tournament.
But he was also the man a frustrated Mancini claimed he wanted to “punch”, the player who ended Sevilla’s chances of reaching last season’s Uefa Champions League quarter-finals with a needless butt on Jamie Vardy, the footballer Didier Deschamps left out of France’s 2014 World Cup squad after arguably his best campaign because of reported fears he could cause divisions in the camp, the one who retired from international football at 27.
If there is a bad choice on option, Nasri seems to contrive to take it. He reported back overweight at City for the start of Pep Guardiola’s reign, always something that prompts the Catalan to omit players. His valedictory City display was a sparkling cameo against West Ham United. Afterwards, Guardiola said: “His quality is on another level but it depends on him. If he wants to stay, wants to be part of something, it depends on him.”
Nasri chose to go. Unlike many of those cast aside in the revolution – Wilfried Bony, Eliaquim Mangala, a host of ageing full-backs – he was not a stylistic mismatch. Rather, he feels the great lost Guardiola player. The Frenchman ought to suit the “free eight” roles, attacking, central and creative, that Silva and Kevin de Bruyne occupy and which no one else, even a player as accomplished Ilkay Gundogan, performs as well.
He could have been part of something special. Nasri is still only 30, younger than Silva. There is time for a player of his technical talent to return, but a controversial figure was operating in the comparative backwater of Antalyaspor. Now his reputation will be stained by a ban. But in a parallel universe, he could be excelling for City and preparing to join Kylian Mbappe, Paul Pogba and Antoine Griezmann to spearhead France's bid for glory in Russia. He is not, and that feels Nasri's tragedy. But it seems one of his own making.