WTTGT Writer: Leke Junior
A popular description of America is “the land of opportunity”, this has been emphasised by many high profile footballers venturing across the continent to finish off their careers. Players such as Pele, George Best, David Beckham and Rafael Marquez have all transferred to the MLS league in the latter stage of their career, for what could arguably be seen as a retirement pay off. Although this view is slightly tainted, what other explanation could you give for Thierry Henry a senior French International, transferring from arguably the best team in the world Barcelona, to an average MLS club New York Red Bulls with one year still to run on his Barcelona contract?
Inevitably there are and could be many different reasons why players choose to go and ply their trade in MLS. David Beckham’s transfer from Real Madrid to LA Galaxy in 2007 was a massive shock to the world and one that he had to give his fans an explanation for. Beckham’s reason for moving to America according to ESPN was to help MLS achieve worldwide respect. The arrival of Beckham was meant to be the new beginning for more top class players to make the move to the MLS so that the overall quality of the league improved, this could help increase the fan base in America and worldwide.
The year before Henry left Barcelona was by far his most productive and successful for the club, winning the treble La Liga, Copa Del Rey and the Champions league. He also weighed in with an impressive 26 goals in 42 appearances from a left wing position. In his final year at the Camp Nou his appearances, goals and importance for Barcelona diminished with the fast developing Pedro bursting onto the scene and eventually taking Henry’s position in the Barcelona XI. In Thierry Henry’s first two seasons at the club he made over 40 appearances in each season, compared to his final year were he made just over 30. This poor return of only 4 goals in 32 appearances and a season full of injuries translated into that of a striker who was past his best.
Explanations for why Henry left could be endless, maybe he didn’t enjoy his role on the left, or his bit-part player role in the Barcelona team. Despite all these suggestions or reasons why he left, he still didn’t do himself any favours in his first season in the MLS. Joining New York Red Bulls allowed Henry to once again become the predominant figure in a team and to embark on a new challenge, bearing in mind he had won everything in Europe domestically and nationally. An “ageing” Henry made 11 appearances for Red Bulls in 2010 scoring only 2 goals and assisting 3, these dreadful statistics show the decline in the world cup winners performances. For a two-time European golden boot winner to only score 2 goals in a league regarded by some critics in the same standard as the Blue Square Conference and Coca Cola League 2, this spoke volumes of how far Henry’s stock had reduced. In the 2010 season Henry was again being hampered by constant injuries, never did the thought of him still being good enough to play for a European team come to thought.
Ahead of the new MLS Season Thierry Henry decided to train with his former club Arsenal FC to build up his fitness, the Gunners legend trained with Arsene Wenger’s squad at London Colney in January. This training seemed to rejuvenate him, in 11 appearances for his MLS side this season he has managed to score 7 goals and assist 3. Not only has his statistics been impressive but also his gameplay on the pitch, he seems to have more energy and a willingness to run which was lacking in the past season. His dribbling skills and eye for goal has dumbfounded defenders and goalkeepers alike, he seems to be playing at a level right now which seems beneath him and looks to be close to his old self. Although it can be argued that he is currently playing in a league which isn’t rated amongst the best leagues in the world, you have to say that you can only beat what is in front of you and right now he is doing that. Free of niggling injuries and not being played out of position Henry appears to be fully fit and confident.
Whenever Henry is fit and confident he is a guaranteed goal machine, the Arsenal legend scored 226 goals for Arsenal. Thierry Henry’s 7 goals this season have been varied from him unusually scoring with his head, and mixing it with left foot and right foot strikes. Could Henry in his early thirties still make it in a European team? Many players have still played at the highest level up onto their mid and late thirties, for example the recently retired Van Der Sar and Paul Scholes. Other players still plying their trade at the top level are Ryan Giggs and Francesco Totti, although these two are renound for being one team players is it too exaggerated to say that if these two can still play in the Champions League and at top European sides at 37 and 34 why not Henry who is still 33 years old?
It looks as if Thierry Henry has finally shaken off the injuries which plagued him for 2 seasons and he is well on his way to having a successful season in the MLS, David Beckham proved that 2 seasons in a row on loan at AC Milan that he still has the quality to play at the highest level, surely the world class ability that Thierry Henry is renound for has not disserted him. Assuredly I can say that if Thierry Henry felt the challenge to come back to Europe and play in one of the big leagues again he could still produce performances, goals and assists at the top level to prove he still has what it takes to be regarded as one of the best strikers in the world. What is your opinion?
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