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Some footballers are so talented and likeable that they can enjoy going from ground to ground without being booed due to their universal popularity. Samir Nasri is not one of them.
In the early stages of his career, the French midfielder felt the pressure of being likened to Zinedine Zidane — and with good reason.
Much like the former France and Real Madrid star, his graceful and eloquent method of carrying the ball was a pleasure to observe. What he lacked in pace and fitness he made up for with guile and creativity.
His ride to the top of football was a bumpy one and there were once fears that Nasri would not make it past his teenage years, let alone become a successful footballer.
Samir Nasri joined Arsenal from Marseille in 2008
During his time at Marseille, the club where he broke through as an academy graduate, Nasri contracted meningitis. It was serious enough to hospitalise the teenager and it nearly killed him, but he made a full recovery.
He felt abandoned by those who had hailed him as the club’s saviour on the pitch but had neglected him in the hospital room.
"I saw those who were there for me when everything was going well, when I was Marseille's little prince, when I had played the season where I became an international,” he told Canal+.
"People were behind me then, but when I was sick for 12 days, with meningitis about to die, no one was there. I noticed how things really were."
Perhaps that was behind his desire to leave the Ligue 1 club in 2008 after running down his contract. Bizarrely, Nasri actually penned a new three-year deal only to leave for Arsenal a week later for £14million.
He quickly endeared himself to the fans, scoring four minutes into his Arsenal debut with the winner in a 1-0 victory over West Brom. Yet there was trouble bubbling underneath the surface.
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Nasri had fallen out with France team-mate William Gallas during Euro 2008 after a row regarding him taking Thierry Henry’s seat on the team bus. The pair made up, but Gallas had shown where his loyalty lied and Nasri remembered that.
Shortly after, Nasri sealed a move to north London to become Gallas’ team-mate at both club and international level —and tensions were high.
Nasri later admitted the pair did not speak for over a year. Indeed, he refused to shake Gallas’ hand when the pair met in the 2010-11 North London derby on opposite sides.
Samir Nasri fell out with France team-mate William Gallas
Did Samir Nasri make the right decision in leaving Arsenal in 2011? Have your say in the comments section below.
As trivial as the source of the argument was, it highlighted Nasri’s tendency to occupy the role of the pantomime villain. But Gallas made some extraordinary accusations in the aftermath of their bitter fallout which cast a dark shadow on his relationship with the Marseille-born footballer.
“What you need to know is that I was staying at a hotel with my family," he told RMC Sport TV.
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“I was with my cousins for a meal, it was the eve of a gathering of the French team. At the end of the meal I went out of the hotel and some people approached me and wanted to talk to me.
“Initially I did not want to and then I recognised a person who was often with Samir [Nasri] at the Arsenal training ground.
“A few days before we had had an altercation about comments that he made about me and I did not like them.
“This person wanted us to talk and wanted me to see Samir, who was in a car further away so I got ready to follow him – but my cousin, who is a policeman, told me in creole not to follow him.
Samir Nasri and William Gallas played together at Arsenal but their bitter row continued
"At the same time, I glanced inside and I saw someone crouched down with a bag. In the bag, there were Tasers. I didn't know why.
“But luckily I was with people that day, because I do not know what could have happened.”
Even if there were problems away from the pitch, Nasri still managed to make an impression on it.
After becoming a regular part of Arsene Wenger’s side, Nasri found his best form in the 2010-11 season with 15 goals in all competitions and took centre stage while Cesc Fabregas was linked with Barcelona.
But the attacking midfielder also had some doubts over his future, with his contract due to expire in 2012, amid interest from big-spending Manchester City.
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After signalling his intention to see his out his contract, Arsenal were left with little option but to sell and Nasri headed to the Etihad Stadium for a £25m fee following a protracted transfer saga.
On his way out, he made some misguided comments in response to the abuse he had received from Arsenal fans over his lack of loyalty: ”Arsenal have good fans but not that passionate since they moved from Highbury,” he said.
"City fans are really passionate. When we played against City, the crowd was amazing. That's what I want."
It was a messy split and Nasri was labelled a “mercenary”, but he would have the last laugh. While Arsenal finished in the top four, his new club celebrated clinching their first-ever Premier League title in his debut season at the club.
Samir Nasri lifted the Premier League title in his first season with Manchester City
His best goalscoring season for City came in 2013-14 when he bagged 11 goals in all competitions as City won their second domestic title under Manuel Pellegrini. At the height of his powers, Nasri was one of the best playmakers in the country.
But injuries took their toll on his fitness and contributed to his inconsistent form, and Nasri fell out of favour shortly after penning a new five-year deal. He underwhelmed during a loan spell at Sevilla and was later sold to Antalyaspor in 2017 for just £3.5m.
Samir Nasri visited Drip Doctors while on holiday in Los Angeles
Nasri’s decision-making was never his strongest point, but he will have some huge regrets after visiting the Drip Doctors clinic in Los Angeles while on holiday in December 2016.
It was there where he received a drip of 500 millilitres of water containing nutrients — 10 times the legal amount.
He was later found guilty of breaching Uefa’s doping rules and had his six-month ban extended to 18 months. The incident left Nasri in a dark place and he later revealed how he fell out of love with football.
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"What happened in Los Angeles ruined my season," Nasri said on Instagram Live.
'It was an injection of vitamins that was legal and I had a prescription but the clinic injected me with a greater amount than I had expected.
"I was destroyed because I thought I was going to be banned for two years. I didn't want to play any more after that. I even told [Sevilla boss Jorge] Sampaoli to leave me out, but he always wanted me to play.
Samir Nasri is without a club after being released by Anderlecht
"I was lost, I was anxious and angry with everything. I didn't show it on the pitch but football was over for me."
Spells with West Ham and Anderlecht after his ban ended in failure and he is now without a club. On his 34th birthday, Nasri can at least point to the two Premier League titles he helped win in England.
But his off-field antics mean he will always be remembered for his controversial moments off the pitch, rather than his magic on it.