Often Partisan

Where Are They Now? Part XX

For as long as I can remember, Blues have employed a hard nut in midfield to complement the “flair” players. You could rely there being one bloke in the middle whose job was to win the ball – sometimes by any means necessary – and whilst some were a little powder puff, Blues have had some real headcases. The subject of today’s article came to the club with a reputation for being a bit of a headcase and whilst he wasn’t the nastiest player we’ve ever had he’s the only one I’ve known to be nicknamed Nasty. I am of course referring to Mehdi Nafti.

Mehdi Nafti

image courtesy Birmingham Mail

Do you remember the end of the winter 2005 window when we managed to sign Walter Pandiani after midnight (much to the consternation of ‘Arry Redknapp)? Well, that day we also signed the French-born, Tunisian international midfielder Mehdi Nafti. Nafti didn’t really come with the kind of acclaim that Pandiani did – I think the chief comment at the time was variations on the question “who?” but after a moderately successful loan spell Blues made his move to St Andrews from Racing Santander of Spain permanent.

Unfortunately for Mehdi, not long after the ink dried on his permanent contract, disaster struck. In a friendly against Deportivo La Coruña of Spain, Nafti damaged his cruciate ligaments in a somewhat innocuous challenge and he missed all bar the last game of the 2005/06 season (by which time Blues already knew that they were going down) against Bolton. However, by the time the 2006 World Cup rolled around in Germany Nafti was fit enough to go and he played in all three of Tunisia’s group games.

Although he was somewhat limited at times – he only ever scored one goal for Blues which came against Wycombe Wanderers in the League Cup –  he was definitely one of those players who gave their all and displayed the sort of tigerish tackling that goes down well with the Blues faithful. However, the one game that I remember most about Mehdi Nafti was to be his last. It was December 2008, and Blues were playing Wolves at Molineux. On-loan right back Nicky Hunt got injured, and Alex McLeish brought on Nafti and asked him to play in the vacant fullback slot. Mehdi tried – he really did, but he just wasn’t a full back and Wolves ripped him to shreds. Nafti didn’t make another appearance in Royal Blue.

At the end of that season, Nafti was released from his contract and he signed for Aris Thessaloniki of Greece. From a footballing point of view it was a good move for Nafti as he became a mainstay of the midfield out there, playing 22 games and scoring four times as Aris finished a creditable fifth. However, on a personal level it wasn’t good for him as Greek football was (and still is) going through turbulent times due to financial pressures. He stayed out in Greece for a further six months before being picked up by Valladolid, who were playing in the Segunda División in Spain.

Again, it was a successful spell with Mehdi playing fifty-one times in the league for Pucela, which culminated in a promotion to La Liga via the playoffs at the end of last season. However, Nafti’s contract wasn’t renewed and in July of this year he signed on for Segunda División side Murcia.

There is a good interview here with Mehdi Nafti that was published last week, in which he talks about how proper football can be played in the Spanish second division; that a fifth promotion of his career is achievable and about how he coped with being dumped by Toulouse as a teenager. He’s also critical of his time in Greece, saying that the clubs there treated footballers like slaves and that there was too much violence for his daughter to live there.

I hope that it continues to work out for Mehdi Nafti, and would like to wish him all the best for his future in Murcia.


19 Responses to “Where Are They Now? Part XX”

  • Thongs says:

    Shame he never got to play under Clark, we’d have seen if he was as good a winger as SteveDog reckons.

  • Thongs says:

    Thats what i’m here for!

  • Mickey07 says:

    Did you read tatts blog mayor….very sobering,we are fast becoming an expremiership club never too be seen again…blues remind me of,going down the same road as Bradford,barnsley,etc etc…we have had our day in the sun…..on yeh I remember nafti that’s when we could buy players.

    • almajir says:

      Mickey, you need to cheer up mate.

      Do you not remember us bouncing around Division Two with Barry Fry? Anyone would think you’re a fairweather fan bitching because they’re missing the prawn sarnies of the Premier League…

      It could be worse – it could have been over 16 years since we last won something.

      • Blueboy 88 says:

        Now if we were really juvenile , we’d have an Old Trafford style “ticker banner” at St Andrews
        with the number 16 on…with number 17 waiting patiently on the touchline…:)

        Trouble is our neighbours are not noisy…!!

      • Mickey07 says:

        Yeh fantastic days they was too,but would I like too go back to them??Naa not really mate…

  • Tomeo says:

    I remember Nafti’s best performance for the club, as a second half substitute at home against Fulham. It was our first season back in the Prem under Eck and we were trailing Fulham at the break, Nafti came on and he was awesome and changed the game for us. He added tempo into our game that day and won tackles for fun, and the fans got behind him and the team with roars of encoragement. If only he could haved played that way consistantly during his time at Blues….

  • Bluepenguin76 says:

    Mickey…I don’t believe we are a club in the same elk as Bradford and Barnsley (no disrespect to these clubs),both have spent the majority of the last forty years in the lower leagues and only had a very brief flirtation with the big time!!.

    Granted we aren’t as strong as we have been but I don’t truly think the sky is falling in. We have a decent squad of players and ts not all doom and gloom. Lets be positive.

    Four games in and “yes” we’ve started poorly but already people are panicking, lets not get carried away eh.

    Loved Mr Nasty at the Blues…could do with him back in place of Mullins :)


  • Dave Sherlock says:

    Speaking of Barry Fry would live to see a Barry Fry’s team where are they now special… Having said that he signed 47 players a week so it’s probably not possible..

  • Tom says:

    I saw Nafti play many times, personally think he was shocking most times I saw him play for blues

  • andy says:

    A never to be seen Premiership club again? How on earth will Carson get his £100 Million investment back??

    • Bluenosesol says:

      If we believe what they told us, when the last crowd took over we didnt have a pot to p*ss in. 5 minutes later, theyl managed to trouser over £80mill. So you just never know!!

  • DinoTiltoni says:

    I remember Nafti’s last game at the custard bowl. It was like being asked to play right back was a different game completely. He was amazingly clueless. At best his stint with us was mixed.

  • Ribeye blue says:

    A decent player whose injury was one of the contributory factors in our relagation in 05/06.

  • alexjhurley says:

    Nafti and Damien Johnson in the middle of the park. No better than what we’ve got now, in fact probably worse. People gave mcl*!$h stick for his negative football, but Bruce did the club far more long term damage with some if his transfer dealings, then pi55ed off to Wigan when it was obvious his squad were gonna take us down (again). Martin latka.

  • macca salop blue says:

    I’ll have to check him out on my next visit to Murcia region at the end of October. I remember him as being an enthusistic but limited player in terms of ability. Never saw him play a defence splitting pass and some of his tackles were reckless and clumsy and consequently I recall him being very close to being sent off ,a number of times, in fact I think once he did once get sent off.

  • Bluenosejohn says:

    One of those players you could rely on not going AWOL . I remember after losing at Barnsley a scuffle broke out after the final whistle and Nafti was across at a rate of knots to join in! Good luck to him, the season we went down when he was injured he was the sort of 100% that was lacking in too many that season.

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