Nasri hopes to emulate Pires for club and country

September 2, 2008

CLAIREFONTAINE, France, Sept 2 (Reuters) - Samir Nasri said he hopes to emulate fellow midfielder Robert Pires by having a successful club career at Arsenal that would also secure his international place with France.

Nasri, 21, who joined the Londoners from Olympique Marseille in July and marked his Premier League debut with a winner against West Bromwich Albion last month, is one of a new generation of players coming into France's team.

Asked about his career in England, he told reporters: 'You're playing with the cream of European football.

'It will allow me to get up to international standard and play a part in the French team.'

Pires, who also played at Marseille before capturing five major trophies with Arsenal, was a key figure for his country.

He scored 14 goals in 79 matches, helping France win the 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000 before falling out of favour with coach Raymond Domenech.

Speaking at France's training centre, where he is preparing for the World Cup qualifier against Austria on Saturday, Nasri said Pires was both an inspiration and a difficult act to follow at Arsenal.

'They were expecting a successor to Robert Pires. It's flattering but hard to live up to,' he said. 'I would like to have the career he had at Arsenal.'

Nasri said the club's strong French connection, built up under coach Arsene Wenger, had helped him.

'The integration has gone well. The team is very young and there are a lot of French there so I don't feel out of place.'

On the international front, Nasri won the first of his 12 caps against Austria in March 2007, having a hand in their goal in a 1-0 friendly victory in Paris.

It could be a good omen for the game in Vienna on Saturday when France will look to turn the page on their dismal group-stage exit from Euro 2008.

'Austria is a good memory, it was my first match but the context is different,' he said.

'After the disappointment we had at the Euros we can't allow ourselves to take any match too easily.'

Sensing his chance, Nasri said the younger players now had an opportunity to make their mark in Domenech's side.

'With some players going I hope I can bring more than before,' he said. 'It's up to us to show what we can do.'