Thierry Henry’s return to England sparks memories of his glorious past

时间:2019-11-16  作者:秋锤诶  来源:兴发平台  浏览:100次  评论:174条

Confirmation of what the world had long expected was delivered on Tuesday morning. Thierry Henry’s days of slaloming through defences with the ball glued to his instep are over, a player who illuminated the Premier League through eight goal-drenched campaigns . His new employer’s montage of finishes with right and left foot, some dispatched with whip and bend but plenty caressed almost casually into the corner beyond a despairing goalkeeper, offered glorious reminders of one of the greats of the modern era.

Henry broke the mould on these shores. He was a new kind of forward, a player who had modelled his game on Ronaldo and George Weah and delivered it to an English audience on a weekly basis: dynamic and direct in the manner of Ian Wright, whose record goal tally he would eclipse at , but a player who would drop deep or wide and mesmerise just as effectively when up against full-backs, his feet all a blur, to supply chances for team-mates. He glided with menace, a forward capable of conjuring reward from any area of the pitch. No marker ever felt safe. No opponent was ever sure they had him pinned down. He could pilfer in the six-yard box, dribble through Tottenham Hotspur’s ranks or flick, spin and volley over Fabien Barthez from distance. Even his tap-ins became things of beauty. He was complete.

Arsenal recognised his genius. A player who claimed domestic titles in France, England and Spain, and was a Champions League winner while at , welled up as he witnessed the unveiling of a bronze statue in his honour at the Emirates stadium three years ago. There was something cathartic about that moment, and the subsequent two-month loan spell back at his first love which yielded goals number 227 and 228 in Arsenal colours.

The positivity generated by his presence helped purge memories of a rather painful exit for Barça back in 2007, when the concern within the set-up had been that his status rather transcended the club to the extent the development of some of the younger players was being choked. The likes of Alex Song and José Antonio Reyes shrunk in his presence. Henry had been the focal point. Out on the pitch the demand to locate the talisman with a pass was omnipresent, the perception growing that his ego was too inflated.

His time at Camp Nou – where others hogged the limelight – and even in Major League Soccer changed him for the better.

But that divorce has been reconciled. England rightly remembers Henry glowingly, as the entertainment he provided demands. Sky have pulled off a masterstroke in securing him to their roster. He has a wealth of experience, – he is truly worldly wise – is a magnificent reader of the game, as eloquent as he is elegant on screen, and the Premier League still feels like his domain. The anomaly, of course, is that the appreciation from London to New York, where he revelled in new surroundings, is not matched back home. remains relatively lukewarm to the Henry phenomenon, despite the fact he is the nation’s record goalscorer, with 51 goals in 123 caps, and won the World Cup and European Championships as a Bleu.

“In England they’ve built a statue of Thierry,” said the former Arsenal and France midfielder, Emmanuel Petit, recently. “He is revered there. In France Thierry is not hated but he’s certainly not loved.”

That apparent indifference feels odd. Perhaps distance wrecked his relationship with his own. The French remember the tyro who first burst on to the scene at Monaco – they may also recall the discord which surrounded his messy departure from the principality, eventually for Juventus in 1999 – but they witnessed the striker in his pomp at Arsenal from afar. They heard second-hand about that intriguing blend of balletic grace and fearsome pace, saw the goal tallies mounting, but there was not as much blanket coverage of English football across the Channel in that period with the Premier League still en route to becoming a global obsession. Reports of exploits in London built up the Henry fantasy. Here was a rather ‘un-French’ type of player: a prolific striker and an heir to Just Fontaine and, maybe, Jean-Pierre Papin, but France has not produced many other marksmen of such pedigree. There was no pivotal frontman in 1998, when Henry was the leading scorer from the flank. When he did return home with Les Bleus, expectation levels duly soared. He arguably still delivered in major tournaments, and at the 2003 Confederations Cup, but people wanted even more.

The national side still revolved around Zinedine Zidane. Zizou was the fulcrum, the man who had won the World Cup on home soil, a global great and French icon. It did not help that the pair were far from natural comrades, and it was very evident that Zidane’s game did not necessarily suit that of Henry. France played to the precise, almost reflective rhythm imposed by their playmaker. Henry wanted the ball played to him far quicker so that he could exploit his explosive pace. When he complained, the debate polarised between pro-Zizou and pro-Titi, with the majority in the former camp. It can be no quirk that Zidane provided only one assist for Henry, a free-kick for the winner against Brazil in the quarter-final of the 2006 World Cup. The sense was the pair were competitors within a collective.

There is an irony that Zidane is still cherished despite arguably costing France their World Cup in 2006 with his dismissal for head-butting Marco Materazzi in the final. Henry, in contrast, was never really allowed to recover from the ‘Handball of Gaul’ which controversially thrust the national team to the tournament in South Africa four years later at the Republic of Ireland’s expense. His celebrations after the unpunished offence in Dublin did him no favours, but his reputation suffered in a way Zidane’s did not. Certainly there was resentment that the French Football Federation did not offer him support in the aftermath, when the player himself complained of feeling isolated. Yet Henry is considered arrogant, aloof. Even the Beckham-esque swath of endorsements and commercial deals tended to rile.

The squad’s infamous strike in Knysna at the South Africa finals themselves also felt like a missed opportunity. Had he left his seat on the team bus and indicated a desire to train at the height of the revolt, others might have followed and the embarrassment might have been avoided to some degree. Instead he remained in the rank and file, presumably at ease with the policy dictated by other senior players. Yet his reluctance to step forward was considered a misjudgment by many back home. His exploits for his country should have established him as a great. Instead, and mystifyingly, he is not yet considered on the same pantheon as Zidane, Michel Platini, or even Raymond Kopa.

L’Equipe magazine dedicated 100 pages to the story of his career last week, following on from France Football’s 20-page supplement in September all in anticipation of his retirement. Perhaps that suggests attitudes are mellowing but the French, and their media, have found him a hard man to love. The public have not been easily charmed. For now, he will revel in life back in London where he is so cherished at Arsenal, a club which enjoyed him at his brilliant best. English football will welcome him back, even as a pundit, with open arms. Back in France it may take longer for him to be properly appreciated.