There was a time when Thierry Henry was without a doubt the best striker in the Premier League and arguably the best striker in Europe. When ever the Frenchman picked up the ball, fans and neutrals alike would rise off their seats, fans of his opponents would sink a little lower because they knew what was about to happen, even now you can see it, he would glide forward putting his defender on the back foot before bending a right footed shot right in to the bottom corner just out of reach of the despairing goalkeeper before turning away to celebrate, happy to have scored but rarely looking like he expected any other outcome.
Henry was still playing when Arsenal built a statue outside the Emirate’s in his honour, such was the impact he had on the club and today we look at what some of the biggest names in the game have had to say about the enigmatic striker.
“Thierry Henry is probably technically the most gifted footballer ever to play the beautiful game.” – Zinedine Zidane
“Thierry Henry would play for Arsenal like he was a 20-year-old playing in an Under-12 league, and I’ve never seen that before.” – Paul Merson
“He’s a wizard with his feet and is blessed with a gift for scoring goals. His best quality is his speed while the ball is at his feet. He may be the fastest man ever to lace up a football boot. No defender in the world can keep up with him.” – Lilian Thuram
“On his day he was absolutely scintillating, a supreme athlete and a magnificent footballer. What amazed me was that he never seemed to get a sweat on. He could run 100 meters past five players and he wouldn’t even be breathing heavily.” – Paul Scholes
“As a football fan I enjoy watching Henry, and some of the goals he scored last year were frightening. He’s one of those player where you know what he’s going to do but you just can’t stop it. He’s so quick, so strong and so confident. It feels like every game he’s going to score a goal.” – Ryan Giggs
“You will still hear people in France saying, ‘well he didn’t quite deliver for France, but he delivered for Arsenal.’ And you think, well, he only became World and European champion and played another World Cup final for France. Apart from that, he was a real failure.” – Philippe Auclair
“I tell my kids in the Academy at Newcastle to watch Henry. He plays with such a swagger, not an arrogance, and that is a great quality. He always looks so comfortable. You talk about cars going from 0 to 60 in a matter of seconds, and he is like that. He just explodes. I could sit there for hours and watch him.” – Peter Beardsley
“He was so quick, so graceful. It was almost like he could run through a puddle and wouldn’t make a splash. He was that good, it was effortless during the game. The first time I played against him, he used to drift to the left side of the pitch, he used to cut in, pick the ball up, go past two, and just bend it into the corner. Boy, how do you do that? He was such a good player.” – Jamie Redknapp
“I’ve used this analogy before and I make no apology for using it again. When he hit top gear and ran past you, it was like trying to chase after someone on a motorbike. When Arsenal were ‘The Invincibles’ in the period between 2003-2004, Henry rivalled Ronaldinho as the best in the world. A great goal-scorer, not to mention a scorer of great goals, he is the finest player I have seen in the Premier League. His game didn’t have a weakness.” – Jamie Carragher
“Arsene Wenger was talking about comparisons with Johan Cruyff, a player who only comes around every 10 years and Thierry Henry is definitely one of those.” – Gordon Strachan
“The first day that he came into the dressing room, I did not dare to look him in the face. I knew everything that he had done in England.” – Lionel Messi
“His time with Arsenal was fantastic and he’s always been a good role model in how he holds himself, as a footballer and a human being. He’s never wavered from that type of professionalism that you need to achieve that status.” – Sir Alex Ferguson
“He is one of those players who can really ruin your day.” – Gianfranco Zola
“What do you say about a guy like Thierry? He was phenomenal, just phenomenal. In training, he was brilliant. He was proper. I’ve seen Martin Keown, Tony Adams, Sol Campbell, and Steve Bould kicking lumps out him, but he just got up and gave them some back. He was a proper athlete. He could change the game in a flash, from defence straight up to attack. When he came in, he was a young man, but he changed really quickly, and you could see the power and pace that he had, but he had a focus on finishing that was really special. He was like a Rolls-Royce, he could turn that accelerator pedal on anytime he wanted.” – David Seaman
I do remember saying to him when he scored his first goal, “I’ll be able to tell my kids I played with you,” and I meant every word of it.” – Martin Keown
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