Photo by ISIPhotos.com
By RYAN TOLMICH
When Red Bull Head of Global Football Gerard Houllier announced yesterday that he believed that New York Red Bulls forward Thierry Henry was leaning towards retirement, many were left surprised by the news.
Count Henry himself, who has stated he is undecided on retirement throughout this season, among those that were caught off guard by Houllier’s declaration.
“Oh, he said that?” Henry said after the Red Bulls 1-0 win over his former club, Arsenal. “There is nothing else to say. That is what I said. We’ll talk more at the end of the season.”
If the 36-year-old is indeed leaning towards retirement, he would be going out with plenty left in the tank. Henry has enjoyed a spectacular season from a playmaking perspective, having already picked up ten assists, two fewer than his MLS career high of 12 in 2012.
Red Bulls head coach Mike Petke was one of those who sung Henry’s praises after the Red Bulls defeat of Arsenal.
“Thierry is Thierry, you know?” Petke said. “He opens up so much space for everybody. His first step, I mean he’s playing against younger players, big time players, Arsenal players and his first step is bringing him ahead of them.
“He still has it,” Petke continued. “His vision, unbelievable. His ability to create space and get open. All the things are no secret. I’m just repeating what everybody in soccer already knows. He’s one of the best players to ever play and he still has it.”
Petke wasn’t the only one to point out Henry’s current ability, as his Arsenal counterparts also expressed their admiration of Henry’s game.
“Thierry can be dangerous from everywhere,” said Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger. “He understands very quickly what he can take advantage from. He was sharp today as well in the one-on-ones and you could see why he was a great player when he played in the midfield. His passing was excellent and his vision as well. You could see that he can play everywhere.”
“I grew up supporting the club, watching him score week in and week out,” said Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere. “He’s the club record goalscorer. He’s a special player and you can tell today that, even though he may have lost a little bit of pace, he still has the skill to open up defenses.”
Henry’s performance against Arsenal was typical, with the Frenchman providing the corner that opened the sequence for Bradley Wright-Phillips’ eventual winner. The Frenchman’s display against one of the world’s top teams was enough to show Petke that Henry still has the ability to play at any level.
“Personally, absolutely,” said Petke when asked if Henry could still contribute to the world’s top teams. “Do I think he can play for 90 minutes in the Premier League every week? I’m sure he would agree, probably not, but he still is 100 percent at that level mentally and physically for large chunks of games.”
However, with all talks of other teams aside, Henry’s focus remains on MLS, which is something Wenger believes could be enough to lead the Red Bulls to glory this season.
“You could see that everybody was focused and ready for a fight,” Wenger said. “If they can maintain that kind of commitment and solidarity, and if they can keep Thierry Henry in this form, I think they have a good chance to come back in a strong position in MLS.”
What did you think of Henry’s performance against Arsenal? Do you agree with Petke’s assessment that Henry could still contribute to top teams?
Share your thoughts below.