Thierry Henry: In a league of his own – part 1

Thierry Henry posing for a portrait at Hangar 7 in Salzburg, Austria on January 13th, 2014.
© Lukas Pilz/Red Bull Content Pool

In the first of two parts, Henry shares his thoughts and memories about France, Italy and England.

Henry is better-placed than most footballers to comment on the differences, strengths and idiosyncrasies of different football leagues in Europe and beyond – he has played in no fewer than five of them, and against teams of many others. In this special two-part feature he discusses their various plusses and minuses, and some of his best and worst memories of them.

Ligue 1

France is always going to be the start of everything for me

Having been spotted by scouts playing schoolboy football in Paris aged 13, Henry was signed up by AS Monaco in 1990, and went on to contribute to one of the club’s greatest periods of success, particularly on the European stage, after making his senior debut in 1994 in his first spell under coach Arsène Wenger.

“France is always going to be the start of everything for me, it’s always going to be special,” Henry says. “I am from Paris, and I lived in Monaco for six years.”

Serie A

Once I got into it, I was performing well

In 1999, Henry followed his friend and former Monaco team-mate David Trezeguet to Italy and the “Old Lady of Turin”, Juventus.

“I went to Torino – but it wasn’t that long, for six months,” says Henry. “It was for reasons outside football that I left Juve, but I was kind of enjoying it. At the beginning it was difficult to adjust. It’s very tactical, you can’t go too far on the left or the right, you can’t go too far forward, you’ve gotta make sure you don’t concede a goal, you know, the Italian way. But once I got into it, I was performing well. But I left for non-football reasons.”

Premier League

Not losing a game in the league for a whole season was pretty special

Henry makes no secret that his fondest memories lie in North London.

“I lived in London for seven years – eight seasons – it’s the city I’ve lived in the longest. I had my daughter there, everything changed for me personally and professionally,” he says.

Aside from his continuing warm relationship with their manager, he also has Wenger to thank for switching him from the wing at Juve to a striking role at Arsenal, for whom he signed in 1999, where he immediately flourished.

“I went to England, where everything is ‘total football’ – attacking, going forward, kicking, screaming, full stadiums, goals,” he explains.

Arsenal were at the peak of their powers under Wenger, going unbeaten in the Premier League for all of the 2003–4 season, 10 long years ago.

“Already 10 years?” says Henry, surprised. And then, another note on how England differs from the rest of Europe – while other teams schedule friendlies and take time off, Christmas and New Year see a frenzy in the English leagues where several games in a short period can stretch squads to their limits and decide relegations way ahead of Maytime:

“Staying unbeaten doesn’t happen that often, especially in England, where you don’t have a break in the winter – and that’s actually when you play the most,” says Henry. “Not losing a game in the league for a whole season was pretty special.”

Thierry Henry’s quotes are from his interview with ServusTV.