Manchester City forward Samir Nasri has opened up about the struggles which led former manager Roberto Mancini to say he wanted to hit him last season.
Nasri endured a torrid 2012-13 campaign as City surrendered the Premier League crown they won the previous term, with mistakes and poor performances regularly highlighted.
The France international started to show some good form before the season ended but his inconsistency infuriated Mancini, who said he would “like to give him a punch”.
The Italian’s remark was meant jokingly but his frustration with a player was clear. All that now seems a long time ago with Nasri revelling in life under Manuel Pellegrini and producing performances somewhere near his best this season.
Nasri has spoken before about how he needed the summer to clear his head. He feels he has now addressed the causes of a loss of form he traces back to Euro 2012 and a heated row with a French journalist following his side’s exit.
The 26-year-old said: “I wasn’t feeling myself, it was a tough season. Personally after the Euro Championships and the beef with the French journalists, for months I refused to speak to anybody and had a lot of bad press in France.
“I wasn’t involved in the national team, it was a little difficult.”
Nasri admitted it was difficult to accept some of the criticism that came his way from Mancini, whose reign ended with the sack in May.
Asked specifically about the ‘punch’ comment, the former Arsenal playmaker said: “It was just a word. Managers have different ways of working, some like to say things in the press to make players react and some like to say things face to face with the player.
“Some players see things in the press, it touches their ego and they react.
“Last year, I just wasn’t in a good place. Everything he was saying was difficult for me to accept. It wasn’t his fault, it was just me because I wasn’t in a good place.”
Nasri was outstanding as City thrashed Tottenham 6-0 in the Barclays Premier League on Sunday and is enjoying the free-flowing attacking play advocated by Pellegrini.
He said: “I feel good. I have a good relationship with the manager, I know what he wants from me and I know when I am doing good or doing wrong.
“That’s what I’m looking for with a manager.”
Pellegrini, meanwhile, is adamant England goalkeeper Joe Hart will not be leaving the club in January. It has been claimed Hart, who was dropped by Pellegrini earlier this month, could be loaned out in the mid-season transfer window. Pellegrini also insists he is not looking to sign another keeper, dismissing fresh reports linking the club with Stoke’s Asmir Begovic.
Hart, after sitting out City’s last five games, is poised to return for tonight’s Champions League clash against Viktoria Plzen at the Etihad Stadium.
Pellegrini said: “There is a lot of news about six or seven goalkeepers that we want to buy but it is not true.
“Of course he stays. There is no chance that Joe Hart could go out of this squad in January.”
With qualification from Champions League Group D already assured, Pellegrini has promised Hart will get another chance against Plzen but has offered no long-term guarantees.
Costel Pantilimon has done little wrong since taking Hart’s place and could be back in goal for Sunday’s encounter with Swansea in the Premier League.
Pellegrini said: “I think that is a question for next Saturday.”