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Passing stats like Xavi - Nasri rebuilding his reputation at Sevilla

08:00 GMT 22/02/2017
Samir Nasri Sevilla FC
The 29-year-old was a surprise signing when he moved to the Sanchez Pizjuan on loan, but he has excelled under Jorge Sampaoli this season


Samir Nasri is a player reborn. The French midfielder had his problems at Arsenal and ultimately at Manchester City as well, but is now perhaps playing the finest football of his career under Jorge Sampaoli at Sevilla.

Sampaoli offered Sevilla extension

So often midfielders from La Liga move to the Premier League and thrive in the extra spaces due to their technical superiority. But Nasri is excelling after moving in the other direction, an indefatigable figure in the Andalusians' push to the higher reaches of the Primera Division and their impressive form in Europe.

Sevilla, of course, are accustomed to taking on players with a point to prove, often rough diamonds, and turning them into superstars, and their scouting system - led by the magnificent Monchi - rarely gets it wrong.

A long line of footballers have arrived as promising players and later left for huge fees in recent years - Dani Alves, Ivan Rakitic, Alvaro Negredo, Ever Banega, Carlos Bacca and Grzegorz Krychowiak to name just a few. But Nasri was nevertheless a surprise signing when he joined on loan from City in August.

However, he soon settled and, playing as a midfield pivot alongside the more defensive Steven N'Zonzi (another former Premier League player starring in La Liga), his energetic performances have been a feature of Sevilla's successful season.

Given the freedom to roam and get forward, the Frenchman is excellent at linking the midfield to the attack, carrying the ball forward at speed while also tracking back to help out with defensive duties. He is absolutely everywhere. 

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That showed in the Champions League clash against Dinamo Zagreb back in October, when he attempted an incredible 158 passes. That was more than the entire Croatian team and also more than any other player in Europe's premier club competition - with the exception of Xavi - since 2005-06.

He also finished with a passing accuracy percentage of 92 per cent, completing 100% of his take-ons, setting up two goalscoring chances and scoring one himself. It was a display that surprised many at the time, but the midfielder has been producing such performances on a regular basis for Sevilla.

Nasri left Arsenal under a cloud and angered the fans in the process as he claimed he wanted to win trophies - which he duly did at City. However, he was also offered more money in a deal that the Gunners could not match.

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After four successful seasons at City in which the club claimed two Premier League titles, an injury-interrupted 2015-16 saw the Frenchman out of the picture and he was described as "overweight" by Pep Guardiola in the summer.

However, he worked his way back into contention and could have stayed in Manchester, ultimately deciding to join Sevilla instead - despite claiming he was still wanted by Guardiola in Manchester.

"When I heard Sevilla were interested, I knew I needed to come here," he said. "If you know anything about football, you know that Sevilla has returned many players back to the top."

That is exactly what has happeend and, on current form, Nasri's incredible work-rate, energy and passing stats would make him an asset for any team - including Arsenal and City. But at Sevilla he is the main man in midfield - and that suits him just fine.