By Mohammed Bhana
Barcelona star Thierry Henry is not ashamed to admit he would not be the player he is today had it not been for Arsene Wenger, the long-serving Arsenal manager.
Henry explains how his fellow Frenchman took him under his wing and transformed him from a struggling winger into one of the greatest strikers to have ever graced the Premier League.
“Of the trophies I won with Barcelona, winning the Champions League was very special because I had not won it before, but I am happy to admit that if it wasn’t for Arsene Wenger I would not be where I am today,” Henry told Goal.com.
“I will never forget how strongly he believed in my ability and he gave me the confidence to go out and play and do well for myself and make my family proud of me. He has never taken any of the credit and that is how humble he is. But the truth is that I will always be grateful to him for re-teaching me the art of being a striker and making me learn from my mistakes. But I have many people other people who have also helped me, like my father and many others.
“Before I came to Arsenal I was very down but Arsene Wenger was there and he knows how the game should be played and the rest, as they say, is history.
“He only knows how much time he invested in me and many others. I still talk to him and watch Arsenal on TV. I just cannot see Arsenal without Arsene Wenger. I’d love to go back some day.”
When Henry left Arsenal, he was already regarded by many as the club's greatest ever player:
The Frenchman netted a record 226 goals in 364 appearances for the Gunners, his strike rate ensuring that he topped the Premier League’s scoring charts on four occasions.
He won the Professional Footballers’ Association Player of the Year award twice and the prestigious Football Writers’ Association Footballer of the Year three times.
'Titi' was an undisputed idol at Highbury and remains so in the hearts of most who frequent the new Emirates Stadium, despite the whispers of off-field problems that preceded his departure from the club.
Although Henry refuses to go into detail, he does insinuate that the departure of former vice-chairman David Dein played a part in his move to Spain.
However, he is adamant that despite signing for the Catalan giants, he will always have a place for the Arsenal fans in his heart.
“Certain things were not right and with David Dein leaving, I just needed to make sure I did the right ting and not end up in a comfort zone," Henry said.
"David Dein was also very good to me and he enjoyed a good relationship with Arsene Wenger, and at the time there were also a lot more question marks.
“But I enjoy playing for Barcelona because it is also a great club with a great tradition and great history.
“And although we have won more or less everything here, I do miss the Arsenal fans who appreciated me and supported me through not only the good times but also the bad times.
“They are wonderful people and if anyone of them is reading this article, I would like to say thank you once again for your support for me. You will always be in my heart.”
Henry believes Barcelona are more than capable of retaining the Champions League trophy at the home of arch rivals Real Madrid come May. However, he believes no one in their right mind will dare write off his old club from lifting the trophy in May.
He said: “Winning the Champions League with Barcelona was very special. We have a solid team here and we are very high on confidence.
“No one should say Arsenal or anybody else cannot win the Champions League, because that would be disrespectful and I know how good they are and how good the manager is.
“Arsenal have never won it in their history, but as I know, with winning the Champions League last year, it is always special if you win something for the first time. From a personal point of view I’d love to win it again, but if we do not win, I’d like to see Arsene Wenger get his hands on the cup.”