Samir Nasri (born 26 June 1987) is a French international footballer who plays for English club Manchester City in the Premier League and the France national team. He primarily plays as an attacking midfielder and a winger, although he has also been deployed in central midfield. Nasri is known for his technical ability, creativity, pace, and ability to read the game. Of Algerian heritage, he is described as a player whose “vision and imagination make him an unpredictable opponent”. His playing style, ability, and cultural background have drawn comparisons to French legend Zinedine Zidane.
Nasri began his football career playing for local youth clubs in his hometown of Marseille. At the age of nine, he joined professional club Olympique de Marseille and spent the next seven years developing in the club’s youth academy at La Commanderie, the club’s training center. In the 2004–05 season, Nasri made his professional debut in September 2004 at the age of 17 against Sochaux. In the following season, he became a regular starter in the team and also participated in European competition for the first time after playing in the 2005–06 edition of the UEFA Cup. In the 2006–07 campaign, Nasri won the National Union of Professional Footballers (UNFP) Young Player of the Year award and was also named to the Team of the Year. He finished his career with Marseille amassing over 160 appearances. He played in the teams that reached back-to-back Coupe de France finals in 2006 and 2007.
In June 2008, Nasri joined Premier League club Arsenal agreeing to a four-year contract. He reached prominence with the team in his third season winning the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) Fans’ Player of the Month award on three occasions and being named to the association’s Team of the Year. In December 2010, he was named the French Player of the Year for his performances during the calendar year. In August 2011, after three seasons with Arsenal, Nasri joined Manchester City on a four-year contract. In his first season with the club, he won his first major honour as a player as the club won the 2011–12 edition of the Premier League. Nasri is a former French youth international and has represented his nation at every level for which he was eligible. Prior to playing for the senior team, he played on the under-17 team that won the 2004 UEFA European Under-17 Football Championship. Nasri made his senior international debut in March 2007 in a friendly match against Austria. Two months later, he scored his first senior international goal in a 1–0 UEFA Euro 2008 qualifying win over Georgia. Nasri has represented France at two major international tournaments: UEFA Euro 2008 and UEFA Euro 2012.
Nasri was born in Septèmes-les-Vallons, a northern suburb of the Marseille, to French nationals of Algerian descent. His mother, Ouassila Ben Saïd, and father, Abdelhafid Nasri, were both born in France; his father being born and raised in Marseille, while his mother being from nearby Salon-de-Provence. Nasri’s grandparents emigrated to France from Algeria. His mother is a housewife and his father previously worked as a bus driver before becoming his son’s personal manager. At the start of his football career, Nasri initially played under his mother’s surname, Ben Saïd, before switching to Nasri, his father’s surname, following his selection to the France under-16 team. He is the eldest of four children and is a non-practising Muslim. Nasri has a younger sister named Sonia and twin brothers named Walid and Malik. All four were raised in La Gavotte Peyret. After joining Arsenal in England, Nasri settled in Hampstead, a district of North London.
While growing up in La Gavotte Peyret, Nasri grew an attraction to the sport of football at a young age. He regularly played the sport on the streets where he learned many of his skills. Upon noticing his prodigious talent, his parents signed him up to play with the local club in his hometown. Nasri spent one year playing with the club in La Gavotte Peyret before moving to Pennes Mirabeau in nearby Mirabeau at the age of seven. While playing with Pennes, Nasri was discovered by Marseille scout Freddy Assolen who had been informed of the player’s talent through local word of mouth. After noticing Nasri’s skill in person, Assolen recruited the player to travel with a group of other young players to Italy to participate in a youth tournament where they would play against the youth academies of Milan and Juventus. Nasri impressed at the tournament and Assolen was jokingly told by a Milan scout that “he (Nasri) stays here, you leave him”. After returning to France, Marseille officials organized a meeting with the player’s father and the group agreed to allow Nasri insertion into the club’s academy at the age of nine.
Upon entering the Marseille youth academy, Nasri quickly impressed. Upon moving to Bastide, where the club’s youth players reside, his style of play began to take shape. In 2007, Nasri admitted that the move to Bastide really helped his game stating, “That’s where I really started to progress. Training was different and the facilities are beautiful, all of which helps you work well.” As a result of his quick progression, Nasri was an integral part of every youth team he was a part of winning several trophies, such as the Championnat de Provence, Coupe de Provence, and the Ligue de la Méditerranée. After spending most of the 2003–04 season playing with the club’s under-18 team, for the latter part of the season, the now 16-year old Nasri was promoted to the club’s reserve team in the Championnat de France amateur, the fourth division of French football. He appeared primarily as a substitute in a few matches during the campaign as the reserve team failed to rebound from its bad start to the season, which resulted in a 16th place finish and relegation to the Championnat de France amateur 2.
Ahead of the 2004–05 season, several clubs were reported to be interested in signing Nasri, most notably English clubs Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, and Newcastle. In an effort to decrease the speculation, Nasri was offered a three-year professional contract by Marseille officials led by president Pape Diouf and manager José Anigo. On 13 August 2004, Nasri agreed to the contract. Marseille officials had been eager to sign Nasri to a contract in an attempt to not undergo a situation similar to the departure of Mathieu Flamini, in which the player departed the club without Marseille receiving any compensation. As a result of his professsional contract, Nasri was promoted to the senior team by Anigo and assigned the number 22 shirt. He began the season playing on the club’s reserve team and appeared in four matches before earning a call up to the senior team in September 2004. Nasri made his professional debut on 12 September in a 2–0 league defeat to Sochaux appearing as a substitute for Bruno Cheyrou. On 17 October, he made his first professional start playing the entire match in a 1–1 draw with Saint-Étienne. Nasri featured heavily within the team under Anigo and later Philippe Troussier. In the team’s first match following the winter break, he scored his first professional goal in a 2–1 away victory over Lille. Nasri finished his rookie campaign with 25 total appearances, one goal, and two assists.