Goal.com assesses the legacy left behind by the departed Frenchman...Thierry Henry this week bid farewell to European football to take up residence in the United States of America, and his new home, Major League Soccer. New York Red Bulls have handed the Frenchman, who turns 33 in August, what has been described as a ‘multi-year’ arrangement.
In terms of career prolongation and commercial opportunities, it is a shrewd switch for Titi. After just 15 league starts with Barcelona last season and the arrival of newly-anointed World Cup winner David Villa, it is unlikely many followers of the Blaugrana will be overly distressed at the departure of a player who was running on empty for the majority of his final flurry in Spain.
However, it’s also easy to forget the seismic impact and weight of expectation of his arrival at the Camp Nou from Arsenal in the summer of 2007. Henry, in his pomp, has rarely been trumped in English Premier League history not only in terms of goalscoring, but as a scorer of quite brilliant goals.
There were fewer more satisfying sights, even to a neutral, than watching Henry flick the ball up and volley past international team-mate Fabien Barthez in front of an enthralled Highbury. Or watching him bob and weave past innumerable Spurs defenders before drilling into the net. Or taking Arsene Wenger’s side to the continent and destroy the likes of Roma and Inter with brilliant hat-tricks, back when no-one scored hat-tricks against Italian teams – certainly not on their own patch.
Henry spent much of his Barca career in the background
So when Frank Rijkaard – eventually – brought him to Catalunya for a fee of €24 million, Henry was immediately expected to produce comparable moments of genius to those that had English football fawning over the veracity of his Va Va Voom.
Unfortunately, a left-wing berth wasn’t what Titi had become accustomed to. From being the focus, the leader, the vessel through which his club operated, he became just another brick, expected to slide succinctly into the Barcelona wall. He was expected simply to adapt, and adapt immediately.
Real Madrid romped to the Primera Division crown in 2007/08, and although Henry managed 19 goals in all competitions, his displays were widely derided. Although he had been forced to adjust as a footbller, the sharpness and velocity in attack that had set him apart from his peers appeared to be waning. This, coupled with a lack of confidence in front of goal, marred his spell in a Barcelona jersey, and in the eyes of casual observers may damage the reputation that 226 Arsenal goals had helped to cultivate.
And yet, so often as second fiddle due to the solidification of Lionel Messi as the world’s greatest player, being outscored by Samuel Eto’o and ultimately ousted from inclusion by Pedro Rodriguez, Henry’s medal collection during his three-year tenure in La Liga is worthy of revere.
Two La Liga titles, one Copa del Rey, an European Super Cup, the Spanish Supercopa, Club World Cup, as well as his much-coveted and often elusive Champions League medal in 2009, the striker enjoyed his fair share of success during an affluent period for the current La Liga incumbents.
Despite his own personal dissolution, one that clearly frustrated him as he struggled to re-discover that absent yard of pace, the team accolades he assembled offer contentment to a player who ultimately sacrificed personal praise for the satisfaction of achieving the European glory that had eluded him during his period in London.
Henry might have traded being king of Highbury to a mere cog of Camp Nou, but that shouldn't detract from the memory of a player who at times brushed with genius. Barcelona fans were forever appreciative of his, at times, selfless efforts, and although sparks did not fly as many hoped, he will be remembered as an integral part of a team whose legacy will live on long after his time in the game is brought to an end.
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