PARIS, France, June 25 – Samir Nasri’s scene stealing departure from Euro 2012 added to the rich history of French footballers not doing things by halves when they want to express their disaffection with their lot.
From Nicolas Anelka in the 2010 World Cup – one could say the whole squad – to the volatile Eric Cantona in 1988 to Jean-Francois Larios prior to the 1982 World Cup the French have led the way in creating headlines for the front pages as well as back pages.
Nasri turns 25 on Tuesday and may not have too many birthday cards or presents from his fellow French squad members after crossing swords with some of them during their ultimately stormy Euro 2012 campaign.
However, it is his foul mouthed rant in the mixed zone after the 2-0 defeat to Spain in the quarter-finals that could push Laurent Blanc to send him into the international wilderness once more.
Ironically it was Blanc who recalled him after the 2010 World Cup having been left out of that squad by Raymond Domenech because he was deemed a disruptive influence.
“I did talk to Nasri about his comportment with the press but evidently the message didn’t get through,” said a visibly angry Blanc on Sunday the day after Nasri’s outburst.
“It is not very good for Nasri’s image and neither is it for the team’s.”
Nasri at least returned with the rest of the squad which was not the case for Anelka, whose expulsion after a slightly shorter foul mouthed outburst at hapless coach Raymond Domenech at half-time of the 2-0 defeat to Mexico in the group stage of the catastrophic World Cup finals campaign.
‘Go fuck yourself you dirty son of a whore!’ screamed the striker, who had already acquired the nickname ‘The Incredible Sulk’ for his gloomy demeanour on and off the pitch.
But for the altercation appearing on the front page of L’Equipe – leaked by a mole – it is questionable given Domenech’s lack of authority that Anelka would have been sent home but there was no choice with it being made public.
Most squads would have accepted this as a normal disciplinary measure against a player who had overstepped the mark but not this revolutionary group of players who then stayed on their team bus – and refused to train.
“Going on strike was the decision of a group that felt isolated, that felt no one had protected it and that wanted to get a message across,” said Hugo Lloris at the time and who was to be completely forgiven as Blanc named him captain.
“We went way too far. It was a clumsy decision, a big mistake. It was totally stupid.”
While theirs was a collective decision Cantona’s was typical of his unique theatrical temperament reacting to what he took as a personal slight.
The mercurial forward, then aged 22, took such offence at being dropped from the France squad by Henri Michel – who had handed him his first cap – that he called him a ‘bag of shit’ – a one-year ban ensued unsurprisingly.
Whilst Cantona’s choice of words were not exactly going to win him any friends or influence within the federation they may have struck a chord with some other players, but Larios’s offence would have not found much sympathy.
Both he and Michel Platini were key members of the France squad set to participate at the 1982 World Cup finals.
However Larios, a star of the St Etienne side that dominated French football in the 1970’s and early 1980’s, had to be peremptorily sent home when allegations surfaced that he was having an affair with Platini’s wife.
With Platini’s star in the ascendant both on the pitch and in the dressing room Larios never represented his country again.
Sadly for France, Nasri has not followed Lloris’ recent advice on how to turn the page post-2010.
“We need to get back to basics, respect for the jersey, for ourselves, our team-mates and the institution that is the France team.”