By Chris Harris
Thierry Henry has embarked on an incredible journey since leaving Paris for the Clairefontaine football academy at the age of 13. This week he returns to the city which moulded him as a player, and as a man.
The Arsenal captain was born and raised in Les Ulis, a south-west suburb of the French capital. His skills were honed on the streets and his values were instilled by his father.
The Henry who leads Arsenal out at the Stade de France on Wednesday night is, at first glance, a very different creature to the one who left Paris as a teenager. He has fame, a fortune and a fanbase stretching across the world.
But inside, Henry has not changed a great deal. As he explained at his pre-match press conference, the values and 'anger' he learnt as a young boy still shape the man who now has the Champions League trophy in his sights.
"When I have that grumpy face on the pitch people wonder where it comes from and it's pretty simple. Everything comes from my dad, the way I play, the desire, the commitment," he says.
"My dad always taught me never to be satisfied with what you have, so you understand why when I score goals I play things down. That is my philosophy, and that's why I have reached what I reached and I'm playing the football I'm playing.
"It's a long time since I went back [to Les Ulis]. But the way I was brought up there prepared me to be what I am right now. That desire, that anger, in the right way, drives me always.
"I think people are scared of anger. Sometimes people give me aggro about the way I am on the pitch, the way I look. But I'm not scared of anger. I use it to drive me on in a positive way. It's one thing you need to master, it's really difficult, but without that anger I wouldn't be the same player.
"Maybe it had something to do with having a difficult upbringing. There is always aggro when you play on the streets, that is why you get tough, and that anger factor is important. When I see Rooney and Ronaldinho, I see players from the streets. You cannot teach that, you need to have that in you. That's why I want to have it in me."
When Henry refers to 'anger', he is not talking about losing his temper. He is talking about the burning desire to strive for more success and the tendency to put pressure on himself rather than his team-mates.
That's why, if Arsenal are crowned European champions on Wednesday night, his happiness will be temporary. It won't be long before he is looking ahead to the next challenge, the next chance to prove himself.
"There is a difference between being happy and satisfied," says Henry. "If we win the Cup I will be happy but when you are satisfied you relax, and I want to carry on. I keep my trophies but no, I don't cherish them. What I cherish is the respect of the game, just to play football.
"You can never reach perfection and I am trying to do it, that's the only way you can try to get better. We know that in the game nobody is perfect, we know everybody will miss something so trying to reach perfection will keep you on your toes. I'm trying to do that."
And Henry's philosophy is the same regardless of whether he is playing on the biggest stage in club football or on the beach with his family.
"It doesn't matter if it's an important game," he smiles. "If you come with me on holiday and see me with my dad, if I score I will take the mick out of him. If I lose a game of two on two, I won't talk to them for at least an hour!"16 May 2006