Thierry Henry is one of the greatest Premier League players of all time. If you had to make an all-time Premier League XI would find many people would include the Frenchman. He was a prolific goalscorer, making it look too easy at times.
He became Arsenal’s all-time leading goalscorer with 228 goals, lifting two Premier League titles including the invincibles season.
When he left Arsenal for a new challenge in Spain in 2007, it was fair to say he had left his mark on the English game. He was leaving for Barcelona to join the likes of Xavi, Iniesta, Puyol, and of course Lionel Messi.
Messi was just 20 years old at the time, but was already one of the best talents in the world. He was already surrounded by some greats of the game too, so it’s probably a surprise to learn that he was starstruck when Theirry Henry walked into the dressing room for the first time.
“I did not dare to look him in the face,” said Messi, recounting that moment. “I knew everything he had done in England. I had an image of him made and suddenly we were on the same team. I loved Henry. The ease of finishing an action, how he takes the road to the goal and ends the play. He gives the impression that it is natural. His career, his dribbling, the last gesture. It is fluid.”
They went on to win the Champions League together, and Thierry Henry even made some sacrifices for Leo. At Arsenal, Henry was able to roam the pitch freely and was the main man for Arsenal, but at Barca he was happy to play on the left-wing, and sometimes even sit on the bench so that Messi could play a central role in Barca’s success. Henry said: “Everyone knew Messi was special. We knew we must help him, ambitions aside. And that helped us as well.”
I was fortunate to quickly start my career against Henry, who at that time was at Monaco, and was playing the game to get better every week. Even today whenever we meet we laugh because he is and will always be that unique player I played against.
I probably had a similar relationship with Zola because you can play with a star player but when one treats you as a human the way Zola did with me, you will forever respect them. During and after the game I would spend a lot of time asking Zola questions so I could get better and have a better understanding of one of the great minds on and off the field. He had time for everyone but made the game look so easy.
Whenever I meet Zola those are one of the things that comes up as soon as we see each other. #mmlove