Samir Nasri has won French Footballer of the Year, per voting conducted by France Football. The Arsenal midfielder beat out Chelsea attacker Florent Malouda (second) and Lyon goalkeeper Hugo Lloris (third), though when you consider those two players, a big light bulb (then a question mark) should go off in your mind.
Malouda and Lloris both went with France to this summer's World Cup. You know - that tournament the whole French Football Federation pretends to want to forget, yet somehow it stayed on the tips of their tongues for months after the team's South Africa revolt? Regardless of the issues surrounding that team (or the federation's using them as a scape goat for years of mismanaging their coaching position), it says something that Malouda and Lloris were selected to play in the world's biggest tournament while Nasri was not.
That's not to say Nasri couldn't overcome his absence from the World Cup team. Had he clearly been the best French player in the world, where only a personality conflict was keeping him out of the squad, this award would not only be justifiable but justice. But that's not the case. While the last month of Nasri's play makes it easy to forget, Nasri has not clearly been the best French footballer in the world during 2010. The likes of Malouda and Lloris, Franck Ribery and Patrice Evra. Even Jeremy Toulalan, an instrumental part of Lyon's run to the Champions League semifinals. Has Nasri been so much better than all these players that playing in South Africa shouldn't matter?
While former coach Raymond Domenech was widely criticized for not selecting Nasri, this award still seems like overcompensation for what happened this summer. It's an attempt to overlook history, electing not to rewrite it, just in case the narrative becomes useful in the future. Today, all is well within the FFF. There is no need to crack a whip, so we'll forget about the World Cup. Nasri wins the award! It's as if June and July never happened. The year 2010 only had ten months.
But as is always the case when somebody is unduly elevated, the image of that person on a pedestal compels us to note why he should not be there. Nasri has been great over the last month, but before that he was "merely" very good. Has he been better than Florent Malouda for most of this calendar year? Somebody whose emergence for Chelsea was key to their Premier League title? Who led the Premier League in goals for the first part of the season?
And what about Lloris, one of the world's better keepers, sitting right at the edge of that Buffon-esque group of elites? What about Franck Ribery, a key contributor to Germany's champions? Or Patrice Evra, who is still amongst the world's best left backs?
The problem with their candidacies is the same as Malouda's. Domenech picked them. They went to South Africa, and South Africa never happened. South Africa never happened, unless you were there, that is. Then not only did it happen, but it's a scarlet letter emblazoned on your CV, even if you weren't complicity in the protest.
Put all that together and you get Samir Nasri as French Footballer of the Year. I would say Florent Malouda's owed an apology, but I'm sure he saw this coming.