Underrated Legend

December 16, 2014. This day does not really have any significant meaning to people when it comes to sports, however with the events of today this date might have some significance. On this day a man named Thierry Henry retired from the sport of soccer. Okay maybe this day does not have that much significance in sports regardless but here at Fan-I Sports we are using this opportunity to look back at Henry’s career, which to me does not get enough credit.

To those who are not really into soccer, they are probably wondering who he is or saying “oh that’s that French guy who was on the New York Red Bulls.” However, for those versed in soccer history, they will remember Thierry Henry as a great player, and even some would consider him a legend. 

   This is not a biography on Thierry’s life but think of this as an article on the dazzling career that belonged to Thierry Henry.  Henry started out on French team Monaco; there he turned heads for his ability to dribble past defenders. Although Henry played on Juventus and Barcelona, it was his career in the Barclays Premier League playing for Arsenal that is most memorable when talking about Henry’s club career. In Henry’s time with Arsenal, he scored 175 premier league goals and 228 club goals overall which puts him first all time on Arsenal’s goal scoring list. Think about it, out of all the Great players that have come through the organization like Robin Van Persie, Ted Drake (yes really old example but 41 league goals in a season is 41 league goals in a season), and many many more, Thierry Henry is above them all and he left the organization at 30, 7 years before he called it a career. Then he played on Barcelona for a brief three year stint before leaving For the New York Red Bulls. There he helped grow the MLS, showing that at 33 he is still very tricky with the ball. In my opinion he was a good example of what a European player can bring to an MLS team if he is brought right. 

   His mark was not just made on a club level but also on an international level playing for France as well. As a young 20 year old he was apart of that legendary 1998 France team that won the World Cup, as well as the 2000 team that won the Euro cup when he was 22. He is in elite company scoring 51 goals for France in 123 appearances. He was also part of that 2006 team that came so very close to winning it all against Italy. (Contrary to popular belief Henry was not the guy who missed the penalty David Trezeguet was). All these numbers are amazing on paper but there are a couple things really hurt Henry’s legacy as one of the best player ever and here at Fan-I Sports, both sides are always told. 

   The lesser argument that I find unfair was that Henry could not win the big one as the main star. Granted, he has had success with France but if Zinedine Zidane is on your team and you are not getting to at least semi-finals, the rest of the team has to be really bad. Supporters of the argument can look at his career in MLS and his “Prime years” at Arsenal to argue this. However, you would be foolish to not acknowledge his success at winning and being productive, so this argument is not really used often because his has won wherever he goes with the exception of the New York Red Bulls. 

   The semi decent argument is that Henry is a mercenary. There is no doubt that he definitely leaves to the highest bidder when his current team does not pay his high enough. Although I am on the side of the argument that no player should take a pay cut (because when the players were struggling the banks weren’t willing to take a “pay cut” on their parent’s mortgages) it can be argued that the “best players of all time” stay with the team that gave them their “big break”. This argument is again irrelevant because soccer players generally go to the highest bidder. Yes the best players generally do stay at the team that gives them their big break for their “prime years” like Pele in Santos and Messi in Barcelona (he is still playing so not a great example), but players like Maradona switched teams (once but he did) and Zidane did not exactly say no to the massive contract Real Madrid offered him (which made him the most expensive player of all time from 2001-2009 even though he retired in 2006). 

    The argument that I can semi understand is that with Henry there is that feeling that he hung on too long to the game. At Arsenal, he left because the young core looked better and went to another team in the (at the time) less talented La Liga. In Barcelona he left because some guy named Lionel Messi (sarcasm) was turning into a star and went to another clearly less talented league in the MLS. In both cases, many fans felt him leaving was a good thing for their franchise because of the “next guy up” despite that Henry still had some talent left in him. This situation looks very similar to situations where athletes hang on too long to the game (i.e. Paul pierce, Shaquille O’Neal, Michael Jordan etc.). This argument is actually very concrete but the counter is that again for some reason, wherever Henry has went, the team has enjoyed success. And all the teams he was apart of, he was a reason they did enjoy success. 

                To me, for non-soccer fans I would compare Henry to a soccer version of Tracy McGrady but with the “if he stayed healthy and won.” added in the equation. Really good, people talk about him at his prime as an elite player but not thought of as one of the best ever. In my opinion, Thierry Henry’s legacy is a man who is one of the most underrated soccer players of all time and can leave the game with pride.