Foul-mouth Samir Nasri and coach Laurent Blanc set to part company
Samir Nasri's international future with France is likely to depend on Laurent Blanc's own managerial plans, with the Manchester City midfielder emerging as the scapegoat of the latest French disintegration at a major tournament.
Nasri, dropped from the starting line-up by Blanc for Saturday's Euro 2012 quarter-final defeat against Spain in Donetsk, ended his tournament on a sour note with a sustained foul-mouthed attack on a French reporter as he walked towards the team bus in the Donbass Arena.
The former Arsenal player, who is 25 tomorrow, had appeared set to play a central role for the French in Ukraine after scoring the equalising goal in a 1-1 draw against England in their opening fixture in Group D a fortnight ago.
But Nasri's subsequent failure to impress against Ukraine and Sweden was followed by a dressing-room clash with midfielder Alou Diarra at the end of the 2-0 defeat against the Swedes and he was omitted from the team against Spain before replacing Florent Malouda as substitute in the 64th minute.
Blanc has admitted to French reporters in the past that he expects Nasri to 'do more' when on international duty and his failure to replicate his performance against England, when he celebrated his goal with a 'shush' gesture to the French media, has done little to erase Blanc's doubts.
With Tottenham understood to be keen to talk to Blanc about the managerial vacancy at White Hart Lane, the former Manchester United defender's career path might be set to take him away from France -- and Nasri -- ahead of the qualifying campaign for the 2014 World Cup.
But his defence of Nasri following his angry post-match confrontation with a reporter from 'Agence-France Presse' was certainly guarded and a pointer towards his exasperation with the player.
"I did talk to Nasri about his conduct with the press, but evidently the message didn't get through." Blanc said. "It is not very good for Nasri's image and neither is it for the team's. There is, above all, a problem between Nasri and the (French) media It is regrettable, but the real problem is with the press.
"The reality is in the words expressed -- they are very violent statements. There is a lack of respect there with a journalist, but the journalist doesn't show a lot of respect either."
Nasri's mood at Euro 2012 had been darkened from the outset by a report in one French newspaper which suggested that Roberto Mancini no longer had room for him in his plans at City and was ready to sell him to Inter Milan, a claim dismissed privately by the club. The Marseille-born player has rarely been a popular figure in France, however, and his omission, along with Karim Benzema, from Raymond Domenech's mutinous squad at the 2010 World Cup was reportedly a result of their reputations as difficult characters.
"I said to myself: 'If we (Nasri and Benzema) were not taken (to the World Cup) because we were a disruptive influence, what would have happened if we had been there?'" Nasri said in August 2010.
Nasri's reaction to being criticised at Euro 2012 has earned him further condemnation, however, with 1998 World Cup winner Christophe Dugarry, now a television commentator, saying, "Samir, we just wrote that you didn't play very well."
While Nasri's row with Diarra, and Blanc's argument with Newcastle's Hatem Ben Arfa, highlight the simmering tensions within the French camp -- Blanc admitted that the "demons" of the past remained -- the coach appears to retain the support of the majority of his players.
"I hope Blanc will continue with us," said Real Madrid forward Benzema. "It's his personal decision, but he knows us well.
"Of course we have a future as a team. If we hadn't got past the group stage, it would have been another fiasco, but we are leaving the Euros with our heads held high and we can be proud of ourselves."
Diarra, also dropped for the Spain game, attempted to play down the significance of his clash with Nasri by insisting, "Not much happened, but it acquired ridiculous proportions."
But while the reality is that the French squad has not come close to repeating the ugly scenes of South Africa, when the players threatened to strike in protest at the selection decisions of Raymond Domenech, the former coach claims that the familiar signs of disunity were evident among Blanc's players.
"I do not think that he (Blanc) wanted to build a team that doesn't work, but the real problem is that there are kids (players) playing in the school yard," Domenech said.
"As a coach, you have to make choices and it is never easy.
"The coach has an idea and he tries to build it with his staff, but there was too much individualism and, as long as the team is not the first priority, you will not go far in a European Championship."
When Blanc was asked on Saturday whether he wanted to continue with "these players", he offered a vague response, saying only that "we will see what happens".
The next date on the calendar is a friendly against Uruguay in August -- a game which could throw Patrice Evra against Luis Suarez once again -- but if Blanc is there to take charge, Nasri has many bridges to build if he wishes to be there too. (© Daily Telegraph, London)