First there was Brand Beckham going to Hollywood. Now we have King Henry coming to the Big Apple.
While MLS is getting that knack as a semi-retirement league for the world’s greatest stars (Frank Lampard has mentioned it as well), Henry’s signing is still a major deal for the young league.
Put simply, on footballing credentials alone, this is the best signing in MLS history. At the peak of his powers in the early 2000s, Thierry Henry was the best forward in the world. He was the most feared striker in England by a healthy margin. Twice runner-up FIFA World Player of the Year to countryman Zinedine Zidane (2003) and Ronaldinho (2004), Henry was voted player of the year in England twice by the PFA and three times by the Football Writers’ Association.
He was on the French national team that won the World Cup in 1998, and played a pivotal role in their Euro 2000 championship and 2006 World Cup final appearance. With Arsenal, he won two Premier League titles and three FA Cups, and was the centerpiece for the unprecedented 2003-04 title-winning Arsenal side that went undefeated in their domestic campaign. After moving to Barcelona in 2007, Henry claimed the treble in 2009, often utilized as a left-winger/forward alongside Samuel Eto’o and Lionel Messi.
But it is more than just the accolades that define Henry. He is arguably the most electrifying player to grace the Premier League. His technique, movement, acceleration, speed, strength, and goal-scoring abilities were second to none in England.
Starting out as a left-sided midfielder, Arsene Wenger converted the Frenchman to the center-forward, but Henry always drifted out wide left to collect the ball, and then proceeded to torch fullbacks and central defenders regularly. A 360 spin here, blinding pace there, Henry was a pleasure to watch every weekend. One wonders, if Abramovich and Mourinho hadn’t arrived in England, how many more titles could Henry have won with the Gunners?
At 32 and turning 33 in August, does Henry have much left in the tank? He should light this league on fire and be THE outstanding player. He has endured a rocky couple of years with both Barcelona, where he fell out of favor and was a regular on the bench last season, and France, after his infamous “Hand of Gaul” debacle and finding himself on the bench for the national team in their laughable World Cup campaign.
Still, there is no one remotely in the class of Thierry Henry in MLS when it comes to talent and skill, including Beckham. The dream scenario for MLS is a New York – Los Angeles final with Henry and Becks both fit. The two teams are both at or near the top of their respective conferences, so that dream final looks to be on once both superstars return to action.
These signings are critical for MLS’ growth, despite the negative “retirement” moniker they may receive from critics. Why? Take me for example. I went to see Beckham play here in New York (actually New Jersey), and now I will 100% be attending a Red Bulls game to see Henry play. These stars galvanize interest for nascent American soccer fans, MLS fans, and hardcore soccer fans like myself who largely ignore MLS and follow the European leagues. All in all, Henry’s signing is a big positive for the league.
Now, let’s watch a master of his craft in action. Sit back and enjoy.
What are your thoughts on Henry’s move to America? Good for MLS, bad for MLS? Good for Henry, bad for Henry?
Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.