He may still be only 25, but Samir Nasri has just been through the most difficult season he is likely to experience in his career. Heavily criticised during UEFA EURO 2012 following an altercation with a journalist, the Manchester City midfielder then struggled to perform at his best for large parts of his team's domestic campaign, resulting in harsh words from the club's then manager Roberto Mancini.
Called back into the France set-up after a year away and a strong end to 2012/13 with City, the former Arsenal man then endured further disappointment when he had to pull out of Didier Deschamps's squad with injury.
Speaking to FIFA.com, Nasri reflected on his troubled year, how he has learnt from his mistakes, and City's season in general. He also signalled his firm desire to win back his place as a France starter and spoke of his dream to contest the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™.
FIFA.com: You recently finished the most testing season of your career. How do you feel today?
Samir Nasri: I feel good at the moment. I'm feeling more relaxed, but the last few months were very trying for me. Emotionally, I went through several moments of doubt and reassessment. Some of the criticism I got hurt me, and lots of bad things were said. I accept criticism as long as it's justified, but there were lots of lies about me. I made mistakes, I know, but I'm not the ugly duckling that some people seem to think.
Are you referring to the incident involving a journalist at UEFA EURO 2012?
Yes, but not just that. As far as that incident goes, I made a mistake by reacting to the provocation of a journalist. I shouldn't have said what I said. That episode made me think a lot and the fact that I found myself under fire from critics weighed heavily on me. I possibly took too long before making my apologies, but that's done now. It's one thing less to worry about, and that's done me a lot of good.
I've learnt from my mistakes and I feel more mature now. These last few months have made me grow as a man.
Do you think you have gained maturity in dealing with these challenges?
Yes, for sure. I've learnt from my mistakes and I feel more mature now. I'm still young and I know I have a lot to learn. These last few months have made me grow as a man.
Your club also had a tough year, not winning any trophies and exiting the UEFA Champions League at the group stage. What do you make of Manchester City's season?
It was certainly a very disappointing season and losing our title of English champions was a failure that was difficult for the whole squad to swallow. We didn't manage to win a single trophy, and that's disappointing for a club with the standing of Manchester City. We had a very testing year but we'll learn from our mistakes to have an excellent season next year.
You were due to return to the France team after a year out only to be denied by an injury. What does it mean to you to be on the verge of the national side again?
I'm very happy about it. One of my priorities is to get back in the France team as quickly as possible. Wearing that blue shirt is very important to me and I'll do everything to win back my place in the squad. I know I can help the team, but I'm also perfectly aware that I must prove to the coach that I'm up to the task. I've been given another chance and it's up to me to give my all.
What do you think of France's chances of qualifying for the next FIFA World Cup?
Honestly, I'm confident, even if the road to the end of the qualifiers is still long. The team has put in good performances up until now, like getting a draw in Spain, and I think this squad of players is one of the most talented in Europe. Between the experienced senior players and the youngsters coming through like Raphael Varane and Paul Pogba, we've got what it takes to have a very competitive team. We're just one point behind Spain and we can still take first place in the group, which would allow us to avoid the play-offs.
If France manage to qualify, what would it mean to you to be in the squad and play in a FIFA World Cup in Brazil?
I dream about it! It's one of the biggest football countries on earth and the sport is like a religion for Brazilians. I don't think there's a single footballer who wouldn't want to play such an important competition in a country like Brazil. It's a legendary place – you think about their spectacular play, Pele, Ronaldo, the yellow shirt and the festive atmosphere in the stands. Every footballer or fan of this sport has magical memories linked to A Seleção.