On Friday, Samir Nasri faces a French FA disciplinary committee where he will be accountable for his behavior at Euro 2012: notably, the "ferme ta gueule" ("shut your mouth!") shush gesture after scoring against England, the dressing-room spat with Alou Diarra following the defeat to Sweden and finally, the expletive-ridden tirade at a French reporter in the mixed zone after France's elimination at the hands of eventual winners Spain.
There have been suggestions that he will be banned for two years, which will rule him out of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, but that seems far-fetched. A brief ban and probationary period is more likely, but even that would be a crushing disappointment to a player who was meant to have his breakout tournament at Euro 2012. After all, he travelled to Donetsk as Les Bleus' key creative threat and, as he pointed out before the tournament, a Premier League winner with Manchester City.
Instead, he was dropped from the team for its quarterfinal against Spain after he upset assistant coach Alain Boghossian by demanding to know why he was dropped hours before kick-off and has become the latest in a long list of French national players regarded as enfants terribles (which includes Christophe Dugarry in 1998, Didier Deschamps in 2000 and of course Nicolas Anelka in 2010). It's easy to be wise after the event, but an unnamed French FA official told So Foot magazine that coach Laurent Blanc had even thought about omitting Nasri from his squad, "because he can be a pain in the a--."
The L'Equipe story that originally upset Nasri before his "celebration" against England was that City coach Roberto Mancini wanted to offload Nasri after one year at the club, and bring in Sunderland's Stephane Sessegnon. "If Samir listens, and listens to me, he will become one of the best players in Europe," Mancini told France Football at the end of last season. "Like all young players, sometimes he thinks that technical qualities are enough. But I think that a 35-year-old player can still improve. Samir, he is only 24."
There has been no suggestion since that City is looking to sell, but the sense that Nasri's personality is getting in the way of his talent is growing. The Euros was not the first time Nasri's behaviour has been questioned; nor indeed his first controversial goal celebration.
Back in March 2008, just after Marseille had been knocked out of the UEFA Cup on away goals by Zenit St Petersburg (it lost 2-0 away after a 3-1 home win), OM president Pape Diouf singled out Djibril Cisse and Nasri as "big-shots" to blame for the loss. Nasri was in the middle of contract negotiations with the club and, three days later, he scored against Lens. He headed straight for the VIP box and made a pointed gesture at Diouf. "We lose as a team yet only two of us were called big-shots," he responded.
Despite only being 21 then, he was already one of Marseille's most influential players, on and off the pitch. Nasri was part of a group that included Habib Beye, Franck Ribery and Cisse: they were the king-pins around the club and they made life difficult for youngsters coming through especially if they were competing for the same place in the team, as a young Mathieu Valbuena was. (The pair famously don't get on and it has been alleged that France's dressing-room leak comes from Nasri's former bete noire.) Three months after Nasri's gesture at Diouf, he was sold to Arsenal.
His Marseille upbringing did not help him escape the comparisons to Zinedine Zidane, another son of Algerian immigrants who was born in the city. "If Samir had come through at Auxerre, for example, there would have been less pressure," his former youth teammate Thomas Deruda told So Foot. "But his every move was watched through a magnifying glass."
The biggest criticism of Nasri's performances at the Euros was that he was slowing down France's game. There was a telling quote from Karim Benzema, his international teammate who won the 2004 Under-17 European Championships with Nasri, when he was asked by L'Equipe if he discussed France's style of play with Ribery and Nasri (the players on either side of him). "I discuss things with Franck, and also with Hatem Ben Arfa and Jeremy Menez. We talk a lot about football, and bringing speed into our game." Nasri's name was not mentioned.
Nasri, on the other hand, would slow things down. Coach Blanc wanted a fast-passing Spanish-type game (ex-Deportivo coach Jabo Irureta memorably said France had the tiki without the taka) but Nasri always wanted an extra touch on the ball, slowing down a move and looking around. It did not suit Blanc's game-plan nor did it play to Benzema¹s strengths.
"It's important in a match to keep the ball but you also need to move it around quickly," said Mikael Pagis, who played alongside Nasri at Marseille in 2006-07. "For a striker like me, it wasn't easy to play with him [Nasri]. At first, you make a call and then you¹ll make another, but you won¹t make a third, because you know the ball won¹t come."
This seems to have been less of a problem at Manchester City, where Mancini's biggest complaint was Nasri¹s lack of defensive rigour. "There was a point last season when I was disappointed not to play some games," Nasri told Canal Plus at the end of the campaign. "But looking back, it was justified that I was on the bench. By working hard in training, I regained the confidence of Mancini and I played with more freedom."
By the end of this week, Nasri might have even more time to focus on his City career. The Premier League champions' dressing-room may contain the likes of Mario Balotelli and Carlos Tevez but in France, at least, Nasri is turning out to be every bit as controversial, combustible and contrary as those two.