At 30 years old, Samir Nasri is finished.
The Frenchman, without a club since leaving Antalyaspor a month ago, has been banned from football for six months after receiving a treatment in 2016 that contravened doping regulations.
It’s a death knell for a career that already had it’s fair share of low points.
Nasri has long treated the rules in the same way he treated opposition defences: as things to be toyed with, discarded with an insouciant sidestep.
The next Zidane?
It’s all a far cry for a man once dubbed the ‘Next Zidane’.
The parallels were obvious: like Zizou, he honed his skills in the ballon-sur-bitume badlands of Marseille. Unlike Zizou, though, he made it into the city’s youth setup, before making his debut in 2004.
Diminutive yet swaggering, the teen from Gavotte-Peyret seemed destined for the top. By the time he left for Arsenal in 2008, he was the best player in France, a flurry of stepovers and dragbacks.
Arsène Wenger, like so many have tried and failed to do, saw the best in him and got it.
Nasri was a headache on the left wing, a huckster offering his body in one direction before selling the ball in another.
His two goals against Manchester United that November made him a fan favourite, but his goal against Porto a year later made him a figure of worship.
Going up in flames
Nasri would have one more season in an Arsenal shirt before it all went up in flames.
Arsenal were in crisis, with their best players agitating for a move like rats on a sinking ship. The doyen of a generation William Gallas described as ‘thinking they know everything but they know nothing’ was finally making his true qualities known.
Arsenal’s captain had seen first-hand his compatriots taste for a tete-a-tete.
At Euro 2008, Nasri had refused to vacate from Thierry Henry's seat on the team bus, an arrogant gesture that would eventually curdle his chances in the national team.
Chasing the money
It was the manner of his exit from Arsenal that drew the ire of the fans, too.
Arsène Wenger was particularly blunt in an interview with RTL; “You don’t go to Manchester City to win titles. You go because they pay more money than Arsenal”.
The dye was cast; Nasri was an entitled mercenary, the archetype of the ‘modern footballer’ who put bling and bank balance before his teammates.
It’s a stain that's never shifted, even if he became an integral player in both of City's title wins on 2012 and 2014.
Under Manuel Pellegrini in particular, the Frenchman was a whirling dervish of delight, the perfect accoutrement to Kun Aguero's buzzing movement.
12 goals and 12 assists weren’t enough, however, to convince the straight-laced Didier Deschamps. Nasri was an irritant and an unnecessary one.
Pep Guardiola’s arrival last year gave Nasri hope for a restart.
The man who jettisoned Ronaldinho and Deco at Barcelona would not, however, indulge a lesser talent that had the potential to cause even greater disruption. Sevilla and Jorge Sampaoli gave him an escape route.
Life in Andalucia followed the time-worn pattern. Nasri started well, before fading badly with a loss of form and injury.
Most Sevillanos remember him now only for the disaster against Leicester in the Champions League last year.
On that evening, he had been sent off for a challenge on Jamie Vardy. Predictably, he branded the forward a ‘cheat’, absolving himself of responsibility as his team crashed out.
Not so Turkish Delight
Antalyaspor didn’t have to jostle for his signature at the beginning of the season.
His transfer was the ribbon on a sad package that also included a tired Samuel Eto'o and long-standing joke Sandro. Without an appearance in two months, he left in January.
Nasri’s career is a testament to the power of decision-making. He still has the skill to be one of the best players in the world, but his capacity for self-destruction is married to it.
Provided his ban isn’t extended, he’ll be offered another chance. That somewhere, however, will be miles away from the everywhere that his talent should have taken him to.
It’s been a long road to get here but Nasri can have nobody to blame but himself.
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