The topic of Manchester City playmaker Samir Nasri’s inclusion in any potential France FIFA World Cup squad this summer is rapidly becoming a contentious issue following his omission from the group for the recent friendly against the Netherlands at the Stade de France, as ESPN FC’s Ian Holyman revealed.
Despite returning to fitness after a knee injury at the start of the year, as well as finding some immediate form as Manuel Pellegrini’s side continue their hunt for the English Premier League title, Didier Deschamps opted to snub the former Olympique de Marseille player.
The general consensus is that the 26-year-old is now being left out for more than just football reasons.
Christophe Dugarry and Frank Leboeuf, two World Cup winners with the French in 1998 who have now turned pundits, both recently suggested that Nasri is undeserving of a place in Deschamps’ potential squad. According to their interviews with Le Parisien (h/t ESPN FC), neither believe that the former Arsenal star merits inclusion based on his recent form for France and his prickly character.
Nasri badly let his coach down the last time he was called up, for the World Cup qualifying play-off double-header against Ukraine, featuring only in the infamous first leg and sitting on the substitute’s bench for the return.
Since then, Deschamps hinted that the Manchester City man destabilises the squad when he joins up with Les Bleus prior to the clash with the Dutch last month.
Nasri still clings to the hope that he can play his way back into the 45-year-old former World Cup and UEFA European Championship winner’s final squad, revealing to L’Equipe (h/t ESPN FC) after the Capital One Cup final win against Sunderland that he still hopes to make it.
However, he still could end up missing out on the trip to Brazil even if he does enjoy a sparkling end to the season.
Put simply, there is no natural place in the squad for Nasri in Deschamps’ current formation.
Playing in a 4-3-3 with Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema as the point of the attack, while Mathieu Valbuena and now possibly Antoine Griezmann flank him means that the only possible position available is one wide on the right.
Like a number of other similarly talented players, such as Olympique Lyonnais’ Yoann Gourcuff, there is no space just behind the striker to play Nasri. That deployment out wide no doubt inhibits his ability to replicate his club form at international level but changing the system now that Les Bleus finally appear to be functioning well together would be a massive risk.
Deschamps also has the chemistry of the squad to think about.
Considering Nasri’s chequered history with Les Bleus, the danger of the 26-year-old unsettling what is now starting to look like a solid and unified group is substantial.
France need to move away from the controversies that have plagued them in former campaigns like Japan in 2002 and South Africa in 2010. If that means sacrificing one or two talented but temperamental players for the good of the overall collective outfit, then that is a risk worth taking.
Nasri’s ability is not in question, he is an immensely talented footballer and has proved his worth to Manchester City under Pellegrini’s tutelage but international football is not all about individual ability.
In order to take the controversial midfielder, either the player must acknowledge the need to reform his character and start delivering the same sort of performances on the pitch for his country that he manages for his club, or Deschamps must be prepared for the worst and the possibility that his best laid plans could be undone from within.
Nasri is clearly a gamble worth taking based on ability, but this is not Manchester City’s Nasri we are talking it is France’s and the polarisation between the two could not be more extreme. Time is not on his side to prove that he can translate his club form onto the international stage either.
With Deschamps keen to build a strong squad full of players that he can trust and rely on ahead of the 2016 European Championship, Nasri missing out now has the potential to effectively end his international career before he even turns 30. If he does not make it to Brazil, it is unlikely that he will feature on home soil either.
The damage, it appears, has already been done. The question now is what can Samir Nasri salvage of his international career?