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When Samir Nasri left Manchester City to join Sevilla on loan last summer, it’s fair to say few expected he would be part of a title challenge in Spain.
But he has been a crucial part of Jorge Sampaoli’s Sevilla side who sit third in the Spanish top flight.
They are just four points short of leaders Real Madrid and are level on points with Barcelona.
And the French midfielder has been a huge part of that Sevilla success.
Sampaoli has given Nasri confidence
It is fair to say that Nasri wasn’t always known for haing the best attitude or workrate in his five years at the Etihad, and when Pep Guardiola came in and made sweeping changes, getting rid of players who would not to the line, it was no surprise to see the former Marseille man shown the exit door.
The former Arsenal man claimed Guardiola wanted him to stay at City, he preferred a move to a team that offered him regular first-team football.
And while Nasri may have moved on because he was unsure if Guardiola fully believed in him, it’s fair to say his new coach Sampaoli does.
“The team breathes when he has the ball,” said the former Chile manager.
“He has so much quality that he is able to relieve us when we’re being pressured by our opponent.”
Nasri may have been known as a wide man during much of his time in England, but he has thrived in a more central role in Spain.
“My favourite position is holding midfield because I can get on the ball and be at the centre of the team,” said the 29-year-old.
“I don’t like playing on the wing and if I have played there it is because the coach put me there because he thought that was best.”
With City struggling in the league, should they have held on to the player they sent to Sevilla?
How does Nasri compare to his Man City counterparts?
If Pep had chosen to keep Nasri, he would have likely been competing against David Silva and Kevin de Bruyne in the starting lineup.
We have compared the league statistics per 90 minutes of the three men.
Neither of the three men have been in great goalscoring form this season. Nasri has two league goals, while de Bruyne has three and Silva just one.
That works out as roughly 0.2 goals per 90 minutes for Nasri and de Bruyne, but just 0.1 for Silva.
In terms of assists, as you can see above, de Bruyne is way out in front.
He has created nine assists compared to Silva’s four and Nasri’s one, and that converts favourably per 90 minutes too.
The Belgian has made 0.5 assists per 90 minutes, while Nasri and Silva have made just 0.2.
And probably unsurprisingly, considering he has so many assists this season, de Bruyne also tops the statistics of the trio in terms of key passes.
He makes a whopping 2.9 per game, compared to Silva’s 2.2 and Nasri’s 1.5.
And to carry on that goal threat, de Bruyne has had more shots in the league per 90 minutes this season (3.19) than Nasri (1.3) and Silva (1.3).
But Nasri does beat the Manchester City duo in a few areas statistically.
The Sevilla man has the highest pass completion out of the trio – which would definitely please Guardiola.
Nasri is at 90 per cent pass completion this season, while Silva is at 87 per cent and de Bruyne is at 81 per cent.
He also makes more passes per 90 minutes (71.2) than de Bruyne (52.5) and Silva (65).
The Frenchman does beat de Bruyne in terms of successful take-ons too (65.9 per cent compared to 64.3 per cent), but both fall behind Silva’s 68.2 per cent.
Statistically, it seems clear that de Bruyne is head and shoulders above Silva and Nasri this season.
That is no surprise, as he is arguably City’s most important player, and if Nasri had stayed at the Etihad, it is very unlikely he would have taken de Bruyne’s place in the team.
But he probably would have competed with Silva and there is not too much between them statistically.
And while Sevilla, like City, often change formation this season, Nasri has been playing in a slightly deeper role than he did in England.
That does mean he is further away from the goal, and can be more involved – hence the more passes, but fewer shots than the City pair.
If he had stayed to fight for his place, is it likely he would have been tried there?
Even with Yaya Toure banished early in the season and Ilkay Gundogan’s injury problems, the reality is he probably would not have been.
The Frenchman has had a fresh start at Sevilla and has relished from playing week in, week out.
If he does come back to Manchester, City will have a player whose confidence is up and now looks like he can play in a role previously unfamiliar to him in England.
And if Nasri does not return, at the very worst, you would think City will try and push the asking price up after his impressive season.