Nasri: We had an argument but Thierry was cool - then I had a problem with Gallas Samir Nasri has nothing to hide - not even the ‘dark side' he says exists in all the people of Marseille. ‘Zidane, Cantona, me as well,' he says with a hint of pride. ‘It is because of where we are from; because when you grow up on the street you have to defend yourself. You have to fight; show your character.' This guy is a character, a footballer with a mind as fast as those cultured feet. His mother, not the slightest bit interested in football, wanted him to be a doctor; his father the new Maradona. He worked hard at school as well as on the training pitch, ditching his academic ambitions only when he broke into the Marseille first team at 17. (Open fist: While Samir Nasri admits to a dark side, no topic is off-limits) Nasri's qualities, however, seem to go way beyond his ability on the pitch. There appears to be honesty and integrity, and a certain charm that makes him a dream interviewee. ‘Ask me anything,' he says with a smile. ‘It's OK.' I was planning to anyway. Planning to tackle him on subjects from his widely publicised feud with William Gallas to the reasons why Raymond Domenech really left him behind when he took France to last summer's World Cup. Nasri actually has his suspicions that there is a link between the two. ‘Gallas was the second captain of the national team,' he says. But this is also about his personal journey from a precociously gifted, rather petulant, teenager to the mature young professional he has become. He admits he was a bit of a nuisance in the past. ‘I was very different,' he says with a shake of the head. Missing the World Cup might just have been his epiphany. ‘Not being one of those 23 names, it was difficult,' he says. ‘But maybe it was for the best in the end, and not just because France had a horrible World Cup. It helped me as a person. I told myself I need to work harder, to make sure I don't miss the next one. ‘You have to be in the national team. I need to make sure I don't miss out because of something I've done. ‘At the start of the season I talked to the boss here and he said, "Listen, I know you, I know you from training, and I know your quality and for me you deserved to be there. But you have to convince everyone of that". So when I came back, I'd had a good rest, I had a normal pre-season, and then I started to play my football and enjoy myself.' (Frosty: Raymond Domenech's relationship with Nasri was tempestuous) ‘Then Thierry comes back and I'm sitting there, and he talks to me like, "That's my place". And I said, "Well, it doesn't have your name on it". But then he explained to me that he had been sitting there for 12 years and that it was his favourite seat and I said, "OK, no problem". I said he could take his seat, and he told me to sit next to him. "We will watch a DVD," he said. ‘For me, there was no reason for it to be in Gallas's book. If I ever write a book I will not talk about what happened about a seat on a bus. For me there is no point. He can talk about Chelsea, Marseille or Arsenal but not about being on the team bus or in the dressing room. There is no point in doing that. ‘We had been involved in arguments before then. During training at Euro 2008, although after that I thought everything was fine. When I arrived at Arsenal it was perfect but then the book came out and I told him I didn't agree with what he had done in the book. We had another argument and we decided not to talk to each other again.' You can imagine him sticking up for himself. ‘When I don't agree with someone I just tell the person, face to face, that I have a problem,' he says. ‘Because I like honesty. I like to be straight with people, although for the people I love I have a big heart.' (No love lost: Nasri refused to shake Williams Gallas' hand before Spurs' 3-2 win at the Emirates in November - and the pair did not speak for a year while Arsenal team-mates) Domenech, the former France coach who somehow remained in charge for a further two years after marking his team's elimination from Euro 2008 by proposing to his then girlfriend on the pitch, would not be among those Nasri loves. Only last month he was quick to respond to Domenech's criticism of the players directly involved in the chaos and controversy of their World Cup campaign. ‘The problem I have is that I don't really know what happened,' he says. ‘I wasn't there and there are different versions. But Nicolas Anelka is a really nice guy. He helped me a lot when I joined the national team. He is a good person and an honest guy. ‘But whatever happened, Domenech has to take responsibility too. It's too easy to blame others. It can't just be down to the players. In 2008, after we went out, he proposes to his girlfriend. He must have been at fault as well.' That sense of fairness is strong in Nasri. ‘I come from a poor background in Marseille,' he says. ‘We lived on the third floor of a high-rise block in a place called La Gavotte Peyret. We are the people who have to work hard to have the money, to have everything. ‘I was happy because everything I wanted my parents did for me. We were poor with money but we were rich in love. But my father had to work hard to support us. He worked on the buildings; as a driver - and he loved his football. My parents were very proud when I made my debut.' (Le neauveau Zizou: Nasri joined Marseille as a nine-year-old and was voted Ligue 1's young player of the year crown - and was voted the club's player of the year by fans - in his final season) He admits now that there was a downside to his rise at Marseille. A product of their youth system and a cause of some excitement from the moment he joined them at 13, he was quick not only to earn a regular first-team place but also a comparison with another son of the city. ‘It was tough,' he says. ‘In France, after Platini, they were always looking for the new Platini, and then it was the same with Zidane. ‘When I started playing for Marseille, at 17, the journalists said I was the new Zidane. Like me, he was from Marseille and, like me, his background was in Algeria. But it meant the expectation was too high, and it was not a great comparison because we are very different players.' Nasri nevertheless coped with the expectation, became something of a star and, by his own admission, got a bit carried away with himself. ‘The problem, when things go that well for you at a young age, is that you can get a big head,' he says. ‘In the end that was why I probably needed to move away from Marseille. (Street life: The Marseille estate where Nasri grew up) ‘It was too easy for me there. I was from there. My family was there. I was still staying with my parents in their flat when I was playing in the first team. Everyone loved me there, and I needed to get away; to live alone and become a man. ‘I needed another challenge but I also needed to mature. Moving to London, and I love London, has helped me to grow up.' He still sounds like a kid when he talks about his idol. Zidane, obviously. ‘No!' he says. ‘Maradona. Zidane and Ronaldo after that but my dad was mad about Maradona. ‘I don't want to upset people here in England but that goal in the quarter-final of the 1986 World Cup was a wonderful piece of art. It was the year before I was born but my father would show me the tape. ‘He's just the best. Today Messi has Xavi, Iniesta and Villa. Maradona did not have players of that quality around him. With Argentina and Napoli he was unbelievable.' (Mesmeric: Despite Terry Butcher's best efforts, Diego Maradona completes his waltz through the England defence at the Azteca) There are players of considerable quality around him at Arsenal, even if they did contrive to lose last Sunday's Carling Cup final against Birmingham. Nasri prefers to focus on the positives, in particular that victory in the Champions League first leg over Barcelona. ‘I think it was really important to beat them,' he says. ‘They are the best team in the world and it was good for us to do that. ‘We said we are growing, maturing. We still need to win a trophy because, if we don't win a trophy this year, it will be no different to last year. But that win over Barcelona can drive us to glory. We know, after that victory, that we can beat anyone. We have the quality to beat any team and, hopefully, we will show it in Barcelona too.' (All to play for: Nasri escapes from Pedro's attention at the Emirates and the Frenchman believes Arsenal have every chance of progression in the Champions League) He recognises his development has coincided with the team's. ‘I think for the team to grow up we needed the players to develop as well,' he says. ‘If the players develop the team will always be better. Football is really interesting. It's not like tennis. It is a collective sport. If we all make progress the team will improve. Theo (Walcott) is having his best season. I am too. A lot of players have improved.' Enough for him to want to sign a new contract, it seems. ‘We have discussed it but, like the boss said, we will sort it out in the summer,' he says. ‘At the moment what is happening on the pitch is the most important thing. ‘I want to stay here. I feel really good being here. The manager gives us a freedom to play, and everyone has shown confidence in me. If I am this player it is because of the manager and the people at this club.' And he really is some player.