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Legends in Review – Thierry Henry

Scoring and scoring in style. This was Thierry Heny’s trademark for much of his career.

The Frenchman was synonymous with hitting the back of the net but he didn’t just score tap ins. Blistering runs leaving the opposition in his wake, 25-yard flick ups and volleys, backheels, Henry could do it all.

There was an intelligence to Henry’s game that made him so effective at goalscoring for so long. He helped Arsenal and Barcelona to numerous trophies throughout his astonishing 20-year career.

Henry – The Early Days

Henry was born in Les Ulis, a suburb of Paris, in 1977. Although he was involved in football from the age of seven, Henry was never truly committed to a career in football. His father often pressurised him to attend training and pursue his talent.

After flitting between different youth teams in Les Ulis, Henry eventually played for ES Viry-Châtillon. It was here where he was first scouted by AS Monaco at the age of 13. The striker scored six goals in a youth match, which prompted Monaco to sign Henry as a youth player in 1990.

AS Monaco – 139 Appearances – 28 Goals

After representing Monaco at youth level, Henry earned his first-team debut in 1994 under compatriot Arsene Wenger. The young striker began slowly and only featured in fits and starts for Monaco. However, he soon found his pace and was named France’s Young Player of the Year in 1996 after making 22 appearances for the club.

Henry only grew in confidence and became a central part of Monaco’s squad. He helped the Ligue 1 club to win the league title in the 1996/97 season and scored seven goals in the following season’s Champions League campaign.

After five seasons with the French side, larger teams became interested in Henry and he signed for Serie A giants Juventus in January 1999 for £10.5.

Juventus – 20 Appearances – 3 Goals

Henry’s high-profile move to Juventus did not work out as planned. Despite displaying his goal-scoring potential for Monaco in previous years, Henry struggled with the physicality and defensiveness of Serie A.

Consequently, the Frenchman’s tenure at Juve was short-lived. After just half a season in Italy and just three goals in 20 appearances, Henry was unsettled. Fortunately, Arsene Wenger, who recently became Arsenal manager, jumped at the opportunity to sign his former player.

Arsenal – 376 Appearances – 228 Goals

Henry arrived in North London for an estimated £11 million in August 1999. originally a winger, Wenger decided to turn Henry into a striker at Arsenal. It was a move that would change his career.

After a slow start without scoring in his first eight games, Henry soon found his feet and finished his first season with 26 goals and nine assists.

The Frenchman didn’t look back and went from strength to strength, winning several individuals and team accolades. One of Henry’s biggest achievements with Arsenal was playing a key role in the Invincibles season. During the 2003/04 season, Arsenal went the whole season without losing a game. Henry scored 30 goals throughout the campaign and won both the Premier League Player of the Year award and the Golden Boot.

He repeated his top-goalscoring honours in the two following seasons, netting 25 goals in the 04/05 campaign and 27 in the following season.

Despite winning two Premier League titles and two FA Cups with Arsenal, European honours alluded Henry. In 2006, Arsenal reached the final of the Champions League but was denied a first-ever success in the elite competition by Barcelona. The Spanish team defeated the Gunners 2-1 in the final.

Barcelona – 121 Appearances – 49 Goals

In 2007, following a spell of injuries at Arsenal, Henry shocked the football world and signed for Barcelona in June 2007. He joined the likes of Lionel Messi, Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Samuel Eto’o at Barca and got off to a flying start.

In his first season in Spain, Henry finished as the club’s top scorer with 19 goals and made 12 assists. However, he finished the season without a trophy.

Over the next two seasons with Barca, Henry became a serial winner. Between 2008 and 2010 he lifted two La Liga titles, one Copa Del Rey and finally managed to win the Champions League at the end of the 2008/09 season.

Despite scoring 26 goals in the 2008/09 campaign, Henry only found the net four times in the 2009/10 season. He was replaced by young star Pedro in Barcelona’s team. As a result, Henry negotiated with Major League Soccer side New York Red Bulls and joined the club in July 2010.

New York Red Bulls – 135 Appearances – 52 Goals

Henry joined the Red Bulls at the age of 33 and continued to play for the team for four and a half years. The striker scored an impressive 52 goals and made 42 assists during his time in the MLS.

In a bizarre twist, Henry also re-joined Arsenal on loan during the MLS off-season in 2012. In his two-month loan period back in North London, the Frenchman bowed out from his spiritual home scoring two goals in six appearances including an emotional goal at the Emirates in an FA Cup tie against Leeds.

Upon his return to New York, Henry continued to score for fun in the MLS. He helped the club to win their first major trophy in 2013 when the Red Bulls were champions of the regular season.

Henry left New York in December 2014 and announced his retirement from football weeks later.

France National Team

Henry won both the World Cup and European Championships early in his career. The striker made his debut in 1997 whilst impressing for Monaco. He was then included in the French squad for the World Cup in 1998 and scored three in his first two games in the tournament. However, Henry was used sparingly later in the competition and did not feature in the final, which France won 3-1 against Brazil.

In between the ’98 World Cup win and the ’00 EURO victory, Henry established himself in the France squad. He was more of a presence in the 2000 EUROs, playing in all but one game for France and scoring three goals in the tournament. Henry lifted his second major international trophy after France defeated Italy 2-1 in the final.

After his two early career wins with the national team, Henry came close to his second World Cup in 2006. France reached the final but was defeated by Italy on penalties after extra time.

Henry announced his retirement from international football after France’s chaotic campaign in the 2010 World Cup. He retired as the countries second-most capped player and highest top scorer.

Style of Play

After his move to Arsenal, there was a period of nearly 10 years where Henry was unplayable and he was the greatest striker in the world at this point.

Henry had the ability to make football look effortless. He would often control the ball near the halfway line, slow to stop then accelerate with exceptional speed, often flooring two or three defenders before racing through and scoring. This was a trademark, Henry play.

But he scored from all over the pitch; penalties, free-kicks, deft curling shots and belting strikers were all part of his repertoire. He was arguably the most entertaining player of the Premier League era.

Football Legacy

Very few players have come close to Thierry Henry’s ability. His football legacy at Arsenal, in particular, is god-like and he epitomised the win at all cost era under Wenger, where the team gave fans the best period in their history.

Certain moments in Henry’s career are etched into Premier League folklore. His chip up, turn and volley against Manchester United in 2000 was one of the greatest goals int he league’s history.

Henry is now manager of Montreal Impact and his coaching career includes some notable roles. He began inspiring the next intake of youth players at Arsenal but soon took the assistant manager job at Belgium. The likes of Kevin De Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku praised Henry for his impact with the national team. He also had a short spell in charge of Monaco between 2018 and 2019.