Safri puts club before country

Norwich City's Youssef Safri has pulled out of three summer international friendlies in an effort to ensure he is 100pc fit for the new season.

Norwich City's Youssef Safri has pulled out of three summer international friendlies in an effort to ensure he is 100pc fit for the new season.

The Moroccan midfielder endured a miserable season, with injuries and international obligations restricting him to just 25 Championship starts - and never more than seven in a row.

His season ended with four games to go when he had his gall bladder removed, but the 28-year-old has now said enough is enough.

“We have three games in the summer but I am not going to play,” he said. “I have already talked to the gaffer because I don't want to play the friendlies because I want to be fit for Norwich's pre-season and get well for the new season.

“It should be a clear season for Norwich - I can clear my head and be focussed for Norwich.

“I have already told the national team manager - after the operation he called me and we had a chat and he was happy when I said I needed a rest, not a long rest because I am looking forward to getting back. And I will be ready.”

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Safri will miss games against the USA in Nashville on May 23, Mali in Paris four days later and Colombia in Barcelona on June 4.

And that leaves him able to concentrate on twin targets for the new season - promotion with the Canaries and Gary Doherty's player of the season title.

“I was very disappointed about the player of the year award because when I started the league season I was confident about myself and I really wanted to be named player of the season this season,” said Safri.

“I started well, but the injuries came in and it was frustrating not to even finish the league season.

“I am not envious of Gary - I wish it could have been me, that's all. Now I want to work up to the same level as him and more than him because I want the award.

“When you see Gary he was brilliant this season - he was holding the back together and talking to the midfield as well - I think he was a very, very good player for us.

“My first aim though is for promotion - if I don't get player of the season then it will go to a mate of mine, so it comes second.”

Safri is keen to forget the past season.

“Hopefully, thank God, no more injuries,” he said. “To be honest, it was a bad year for me. As well as the results, we didn't get promotion, we didn't get into the play-offs, and I didn't get to the World Cup with my national team. We had bad results in the African Cup of Nations as well - but more important was with Norwich because I was aiming to have either promotion or the play-offs.

“Then I would be happy to chill out at the end of the season, but I was disappointed. Hopefully, everything is go now, and I can move on to the next season and be ready.”

Safri had been suffering with stomach problems for two months before gall bladder problems were diagnosed, but says he is well on road to recovery.

“I think my mind had been on the stomach pain and I was also trying to concentrate on playing football so it affected me on the pitch,” he said. “But I am feeling good at the moment, and I'm really happy because everything is behind me and I am focussed.”