Samir Nasri: the football equivalent of a tub of marmite

What are your thoughts on marmite? The answer is most probably one of ‘yes, I absolutely love marmite!’ or ‘no, I despise marmite and never want the displeasure of having to eat it in my life!’ Not many things continue to divide opinion quite like marmite, except that Yanny and Laurel thing of summer 2018, or that strange dress that was either white and gold or blue and black.

Another thing that divides opinion is Samir Nasri, West Ham’s latest addition to their policy to sign at least one finished ex-Man City player every transfer window (Yaya Touré is available on a free if you’re reading, Karen Brady). With Nasri, it would seem that you either love him or hate him. For me, a Manchester City supporter, I adore Samir Nasri, and he may or may not have been my phone wallpaper at some point in the not too distant past. So, lets enter the weird and wonderful world of Samir Nasri and pose the question: why do some love him and why do others hate him?

Samir Nasri was born in Septémes-les-Vallons, a northern suburb of Marseille, to French nationals of Algerian descent. The young boy played football in the streets at any given opportunity, and signed for his local club at an early age. One of his first clubs was Pennes Mirabeau, where he was noticed by Marseille scout Freddy Assolen, who signed Nasri to their academy. Assolen said: “He could do everything with the ball: stepovers, dribbling, shooting with the right or the left. In fact, I wasn’t even sure whether he was left or right-footed.”

Nasri progressed through the ranks at Marseille, his boyhood club, and his idol was Diego Maradona, despite El Diego winning the World Cup just before he was born. His father, an ex-driver who went on to be Nasri’s full-time manager, had VHS copies of some of Maradona’s performances and the pair watched with intent, with Nasri going on to imitate some Maradonaisms in his play in future years (more on that).

samir nasri

Yet, as a Marseille player, you’re sort of forced to love Marseille, due to the affinity between club and fans in the city – Nasri had idols at the club, including Jean Pierre-Palin and Chris Waddle. Nasri described Waddle as a ‘magician’, which may not have gone down too well with his future club, Arsenal. Nasri was a ball boy at Stade Velodrome, seeing some of his idols up close.

He told FourFourTwo: “Yes, I was [a ballboy]. It came about because I was in the Marseille youth academy and some of the lads from there used to be ball boys. I was a ball boy when Robert Pires was playing for Marseille. I did an interview for L’Equipe magazine once, and they dug out this picture of me when I was a ball boy around the age 10 or something. There was this tiny figure on the touchline. It’s funny, you know: I was a ball boy for this match against Real Madrid at Stade Velodrome. Six months later, I was playing in the Marseille first team! Things went pretty quickly for me.”

Nasri’s rise was meteoric, and he became a regular starter for the first team at a very early age. At Marseille, he was likened to a French great, Zinedine Zidane, getting the nickname ‘Little Zidane’. The tag had been thrown around for years, and the two before him to be hailed as the new version of France’s football icon have seen their careers nosedive – Camel Meriem and Mourad Meghni.

Playing in a team involving Franck Ribery and Djibril Cisse, Nasri earned international attention, and followed in the footsteps of many French footballing greats such as Pires and Henry, by joining Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal.

Read: When a celebration overshadowed the glittering career of Nicolas Anelka

At Arsenal, Samir Nasri continued to earn credit. He had everything: pace, power, skill, creativity, vision. At the Emirates, Nasri flourished into one of the best players in the world.

Arsenal scout Gilles Grimandi said in an interview with he BBC: “Samir is a student of football – he lives for the game. He loves training and watches game after game on TV. He uses things he has seen to help correct mistakes in his own game. When you genuinely love football this is what makes the difference.”

Wearing the number 8 shirt, Nasri peaked, scoring 15 goals in his last season at the Gunners, scampering gleefully alongside the likes of Cesc Fabregas and Jack Wilshere.

One of his greatest moments has to be his goal against FC Porto, which words will not do justice. Just, watch and learn, and remember when I said he showed traits of his idol Maradona:

The following year, Nasri joined new boys with the money, Manchester City. This was the start of the end for Nasri, although there were several romantic moments along the way at the Etihad to indulge in first.

When City fans look back on this era as a whole, they will remember the likes of David Silva, Sergio Agüero, Yaya Touré and Vincent Kompany. They will also remember the fan favourites such as Edin Džeko and Pablo Zabaleta, but Samir Nasri is not really up there. Nasri had the potential to be remembered alongside the likes of Silva and Touré but his legacy was diluted by his attitude and his decline was nothing short of a tragedy.

He brought some good moments though, that the City faithful should be eternally grateful for: two Premier League title wins which he was instrumental in, a belter of a strike in the 2014 Capital One Cup final, a memorable goal in Rome, Manchester Derby goals, that cheeky smile in every celebration. It was an excellent stint, but could’ve been so, so much more.

Roberto Mancini summed it up best, by saying “I would like to give him a punch”, hitting out at the Frenchman’s attitude, due to his tendency to breeze opponents by with ease, but the next week would be a nobody on the pitch.

It was Manuel Pellegrini’s stint that really saw the end of Nasri’s career at an elite level, and this was the start of his descent from ‘little Zidane’ to a Premier League outcast. The problems came on the pitch, with him struggling to get in the side ahead of the ever-present David Silva, but the problems soon escalated to off the pitch matters.

When Guardiola arrived, Nasri was dispensed to Sevilla on loan and fans of the English game probably forgot of his existence. That would be until big time Leicester met Sevilla in the Champions League last-16 and Nasri was sent off for head-butting Jamie Vardy.

Nasri said: “We went face to face and then he fell on the floor [in fact he stayed on his feet]. I thought the English player was tougher than that. He was the one who came to my face.”

Whatever you think of Vardy’s theatrics, there is no smoke without fire, and Nasri’s headbutt summed up his career in a nutshell.

It was about to get a whole lot worse, as Nasri received a lengthy ban for intravenous drip treatment he received at a Los Angeles clinic. A few months later, Nasri was accused by his own Twitter account, which was hacked, that he had sex with the medic who gave him said treatment.

After a spell with Antalyaspor – who are a farm for players who have had rapid career declines – Nasri will join West Ham United and ex-boss Manuel Pellegrini.

Samir Nasri’s legacy could have been remembered for winning multiple Premier League titles, and featuring for France at major tournaments, but it will be majorly remembered for the attitude problems and trips to dodgy doctors. Nasri will be remembered fondly by City fans especially, but it could have been much more. Nevertheless, the 31-year-old will look to prove the Premier League doubters wrong by flourishing in Pellegrini’s attacking side.

Lewis is content manager and editor at 5WFootball. He is also an MA Journalism student and freelance writer for various sites such as These Football Times, City Watch and Football League World. Contact him at or follow him on Twitter @LewisSteele_ 

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