Roberto Mancini has cast further doubt over the Manchester City future of Samir Nasri by claiming that the £24m midfielder has made the "worst mistake" of thinking he does not need to improve following the club's title success last season.
The City manager, who issued a defiant riposte to speculation over his position by claiming the appointments this season of chief executive Ferran Soriano and sporting director Txiki Begiristain would not affect his job prospects, fought off competition from Manchester United to lure Nasri from Arsenal in 2011.
Nasri struggled to make an early impact for City in his first season, but his late-season performances – most notably a match-winning performance against City's opponents tomorrow, Chelsea – highlighted the France international's contribution to the club's title triumph.
Nasri has scored just one goal in 17 league appearances this season, however, and failed to perform in the Champions League as City were eliminated at the group stage.
Mancini spoke of players who "think it's enough to play 50pc after winning the Premier League title," before singling out the 25-year-old for criticism. "I think Samir has fantastic qualities," Mancini said.
"A player of this quality could be one of the best players in Europe. But it's not happening.
"Sometimes a player thinks it's enough what they did the year before and doesn't understand that every day they should improve. If you are a top player you know you can improve until the last day of your career but sometimes you get players who think it is not important to work and this is their worst mistake. Samir can do better than this year."
Mancini, who also delivered a thinly veiled criticism of Arsene Wenger by claiming, "We're different. I want to win", expects to remain in charge at the Etihad Stadium this summer, when he will pursue a move for Napoli forward Edinson Cavani.
However, he reacted with exasperation when asked about reports in Chile – dismissed as "wild speculation" by City – claiming that Malaga coach Manuel Pellegrini had been offered his job at the Etihad. "f**king hell!" a smiling Mancini said, when asked about Pellegrini.
"I can't continue to answer each week about one manager or another, but also because I don't understand this. Why would Manchester City change their manager?
I'm not the CEO or chairman, so if you want to ask these questions, ask them. I have four more years on my contract, I think I'm doing well and I am happy here."
The lack of public support for the Italian from Soriano or Begiristain in recent weeks, following repeated links to other managers in the Spanish media and beyond, has raised questions over the prospects of Mancini surviving at the club beyond this summer.
Roma's interest in recruiting Mancini as manager, should he leave City, was given a financial boost with the Italian outfit confirming that Sheik Adnan Adel Aref al Qaddumi al Shtewi has struck a deal to invest in the club.
Mancini insists, however, that his relationship with City chairman Khaldoon al Mubarak, who sanctioned his five-year, £7.5million-a-year contract last summer, will be the key to his future, rather than the influence of Soriano and Begiristain.
"I don't need to speak with them (Soriano and Begiristain) about this," Mancini said. "When I signed my new contract last summer, we did five years because we wanted to build a strong team and we wanted to continue at this club.
"This hasn't changed because me, Ferran and Txiki work for the same club. I have my position, Ferran has his position and Txiki has his. I have a good relationship with Khaldoon and I don't have any problems with him, he is a really good man.
I have never found a man like Khaldoon in football, the same goes for Sheikh Mansour. After, they can maybe take a different position (on my position), but I don't know this.
"Nine months ago we won the Premier League. Six months ago we won the Community Shield.
"The league will be difficult, but we have the FA Cup. Hopefully, if we can take second place.
"I don't think I can stay here 10 years, but in four or five years, to try to win the Premier League and Champions League, I think is possible. But it is impossible that, in two years we can be like United, who built their teams over 20 to 25 years."
With City facing third-placed Chelsea with a four-point lead over Rafael Benitez's team, Mancini admits his players cannot afford to lose if they are to have any hope of catching Manchester United, who could move 15 points clear with a win at Queens Park Rangers.
(© The Daily Telegraph, London)