By Robin Bairner
Franck Ribery’s withdrawal from France’s World Cup squad due to a back injury on Friday saw Montpellier winger Remy Cabella called to travel with Didier Deschamps’ side to Brazil.
Critics from abroad swiped at the coach, claiming that he will now regret exiling Manchester City attacker Samir Nasri, though to make such an assertion is simply to misunderstand why the 26-year-old has been overlooked for the trip.
Deschamps does not doubt Nasri’s footballing qualities; instead, the former Olympique de Marseille player has been condemned due to his inability to integrate with the side.
France will take with them to Brazil their youngest World Cup squad since the 1954 competition in Switzerland. On paper, a player of Nasri’s technical level and experience should have been welcomed with open arms, yet he has instead been overlooked for a rookie with limited exposure to elite-level football.
Nasri should be the centrepiece to Deschamps’ offensive corps, yet instead he will likely be sitting on a beach somewhere considering what might have been.
After being dropped by Raymond Domenech for World Cup 2010, Laurent Blanc offered the midfielder a key role in his side, yet at Euro 2012 he proved to be a distinctly unsettling influence and came in for criticism in his homeland.
Deschamps offered the two-time Premier League winner yet another opportunity, though this was spurned by Nasri, whose disruptive side was again evident to the coach during the play-off encounters against Ukraine last November. He has never since got near near the squad – and never again is he liable to be selected under the current regime.
The ex-Juventus boss hinted at problems with the player’s personality when he said: “The aim was to build the best squad, not necessarily to take the top 23 French players, but to build a squad to go as far as possible.”
In France, no dissent has been made to Deschamps’ statement. There is a belief that over the course of a four-week tournament, the Marseille-born star’s off-field attitude would outweigh the contribution of his on-field qualities.
With Les Bleus’ spirit finally re-forged after a difficult decade, it is not a gamble the coach is prepared to take.
Ribery, ironically something of the French team’s enfant terrible in the past, may have fallen by the wayside, but there are few grumbling that Nasri has failed to benefit.
Follow Robin Bairner on