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Play like that again, Sam! Comeback kid Nasri sets up West Ham winner

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Play like that again, Sam! Comeback kid Samir Nasri sets up the winning goal against his former clubSamir Nasri dined at the top table of English football again after a doping ban The Frenchman wants to leave a legacy behind now that he has returnedMarko Arnautovic appeared to bid farewell to the fans when substituted 

For Samir Nasri, a victory against his former club and a perfectly weighted assist for Declan Rice's winning goal. Yet this meant so much more. This was the day he dined once again at the top table of English football.

While he missed 13 months of football due to a doping ban, Nasri experienced the loneliness and isolation of the sporting wilderness.

He wondered if it might all be over, whether anyone in football would see fit to hand a reprieve to tarnished goods. 

Samir Nasri was influential during his return to English football against old club Arsenal

Nasri said: 'When you're 30 years old, you think your career is over because no one is going to give you a chance. It wasn't boring, it was almost like being depressed. Thank God my family and friends and a new-born son were there. It gave me something to look forward to.'

Nasri spoke with emotion and a new sense of maturity. He is grateful to manager Manuel Pellegrini, who previously worked with the Frenchman at Manchester City and signed him on a six-month deal for West Ham.

'After I lost a year I didn't want to go somewhere exotic,' he added. 'I wanted to be back in one of the biggest leagues in the world and prove to myself that I've still got it.

'I wanted to leave a legacy for my son, he never saw me play. He's 11 months. I wanted to be back in the Premier League doing what I do best.'

Nasri's pass allowed youngster Declan Rice to rifle home his first ever goal for West Ham

When the mood takes him, Nasri is one of the most naturally gifted footballers in the Premier League. 

His touch is assured, his passing pristine and on this occasion, he harnessed inspiration with perspiration. Along with Marko Arnautovic and Felipe Anderson, he unsettled Arsenal with pressing and movement.

Not everyone will join the acclaim. Nasri was banned from football after having drip treatment at a Los Angeles clinic in 2016.

He has missed just over a year of football, but the World Anti-Doping Agency demanded a four-year suspension and he served just over a quarter of that.

The Frenchman takes mid-game instructions from hammers boss Manuel Pellegrini

Nasri added: 'After 13 months being out, it was the best feeling so far in my life to be back and winning as well.

'I thought I'd lost it at some point, that I would never be able to play football again. I started questioning myself. At the start, they gave six months, on the last day to appeal they appealed and UEFA asked for two years and WADA asked for four years.'

It was not a complete Nasri love-in. Arsenal supporters booed his every touch, owing to his decision to leave the club for Manchester City. Yet he received a standing ovation from home fans when substituted and was one of a number of standout West Ham displays along with Rice.

Captain Mark Noble said of Rice: 'There is no doubt that if he stays here he will captain the team at some point.'

However West Ham anxiety is growing over Arnautovic and a potential move to China. When he was substituted shortly after the hour mark, the Austrian appeared to be saying goodbye to fans.

Team-mate Michail Antonio said: 'Everyone knows Marko wants to go. He's coming to the latter end of his career, maybe he just feels like before he retires he needs a new step, and this might be that step.'

Marko Arnautovic appeared to be waving farewell to West Ham's supporters when substituted

 

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