Thierry Henry has called for patience with Lionel Messi as he scratches around for top form at Paris Saint-Germain, with a former team-mate of the legendary Argentine pointing out that he “left Barcelona crying” and suffered an “emotional shock” before embarking on a new adventure.
The seven-time Ballon d’Or winner stunned the football world during the summer of 2021 when it was announced that he would be leaving Camp Nou as a free agent and taking his considerable talents to Parc des Princes.
The iconic 34-year-old has found the going tough in French football, on the back of a record-setting spell in Spain, but Henry – who spent three years alongside Messi in Catalunya between 2007 and 2010 – can appreciate why a spark is still being sought by an all-time great.
What has been said?
Discussing mental health with L’Equipe, Arsenal icon Henry said when asked if Messi’s supposed struggles – with only seven goals registered this season – could be linked to his well-being: “You’d have to ask him, I can’t speak for him. But, when we tal about Messi or Neymar, who are exceptional players, we too often forget that aspect.
“When Lionel cried on leaving Barcelona, that wasn’t part of the plan. When you think you’re never going to leave somewhere, and then suddenly it happens, it creates an emotional shock.
“People say, ‘he’s fine, he’s got everything he needs in Paris’, but it’s not that simple.
“When I left Arsenal for Barcelona it took me a year to feel good. I arrived there with an injury, going through a divorce, I have to learn a new system, you mix all of that up and it plays on the mind.”
The bigger pictureGetty/Goal
Messi has not spoken in public about enduring problems in Paris, but Henry believes competitors in any sport should be able to air their issues if something does start to hold them back and impact on professional duties as well as personal lives.
The 1998 World Cup winner added: “When someone opens up today on a sensitive subject, we can no longer turn away and reject what they’re saying.
“Everyone likes it when you say you’re good. Why would it be wrong to say that you’re not feeling well in your head? It won’t stop you from being judged on your game.
“When [tennis player Naomi] Osaka spoke out, it didn’t shock me. My reaction was, ‘ah, I understand’. Previously, for me, being able to share your faults was a weakness.
“Today, I think it's a strength to be vulnerable. When you free yourself of something which has been a burden for a long time, you feel light, you run quicker, you sleep better, you eat better.”