Samir Nasri will not travel to Italy on Tuesday for Arsenal's pivotal Champions League play-off second-leg tie against Udinese, after telling Arsène Wenger that he did not want to become cup-tied in Europe and see his proposed £22m transfer to Manchester City put in jeopardy.
Wenger has been forced to accept Nasri's wishes and he has omitted him from the squad, despite his insistence at the weekend that he was ready and willing to select the midfielder for Wednesday's game as the most important thing was to qualify for the group phase of Europe's elite competition. Arsenal lead 1-0 from the first leg at the Emirates last Tuesday.
Nasri has had his head turned by City and his desire to complete the transfer has only intensified since the weekend, when he played in Arsenal's dispiriting 2-0 home defeat by Liverpool on Saturday and City won 3-2 at Bolton Wanderers on Sunday to make it six points from an available six.
It has been well documented that Nasri stands to earn much more money at City; he has turned down fresh terms of £90,000 a week at Arsenal and he could earn almost double that at City but he believes that his chances of winning trophies are better served by the move. The 24-year-old is also keen to enjoy a successful season with an eye on the European Championship with France at the end of it.
Roberto Mancini, the City manager, who has made it clear that he has been unhappy at the delay in securing Nasri's signature, said after the Bolton game that, if Wenger played him against Udinese and, in the process, made him ineligible to play for City in the Champions League, then the deal would be off. Nasri, who did not play in the first leg because of a one-match ban that carried over from last season, was alarmed at Mancini's stance.
Wenger's selection of Nasri against Liverpool had been a surprise but it illustrated the manager's determination to keep hold of the player, who has developed into one of the club's stars since his £15.8m arrival from Marseille in the summer of 2008. The Emirates crowd got behind Nasri against Liverpool, applauding him warmly when he went to take an early corner and chorusing his name later in the game.
Wenger had said at the beginning of Arsenal's pre-season tour of east Asia that he was so desperate to retain Nasri for one more season that he would be prepared to lose him as a free agent at the end of it, when his contract expired and, in the process, write off a massive transfer fee. Nasri has made it clear that he will not sign a new deal at Arsenal.
Nasri had told team-mates that he was relaxed about whether he stayed or departed this summer but his wish to leave has become concrete in recent weeks and, moreover, the Arsenal board have told Wenger that they will not write off such a huge loss on the player.
The transfer has been close for some days, only to be held up by the fine details, chief among them the payments that are owed to the various agents and lawyers involved. Nasri's non-appearance in Italy will ensure that it remains likely to be completed.
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