There’s 2 things in this world I will never understand; If there is a God, then why does he let bad things happen? And how did Thierry Henry never win the World Player of the Year Award?
My Arsenal bias aside, for me, Thierry Henry is one of the most underrated players ever to play the game and one of the greatest ever as far as I’m concerned.
In terms of pure goalscoring at the top level, Thierry is near on untouchable. He smashed Arsenal’s goalscoring record set by the great Ian Wright, and has won every major international honour going and every league title in every league he’s played in. He’s also won The Champions League, countless FA Cups, Copa del Reys, and even a UEFA Super Cup and Fifa World Club Cup to boot.
Added to that, he’s France’s all time top goalscorer, third in the list of all time Premier League goalscorers (only behind Alan Shearer and Andrew Cole) and the highest scoring foreigner to play in England. He’s also got a shed load of personal awards and accolades, and was voted the greatest foreign player ever to play in the Premier League.
And his goalscoring record for Arsenal is bordering on the unbelievable. His first season in England (the one where players need to “settle” into the league) he notched up 26 goals in all competitions. After that, he scored 22, 32, 32, 39, 30, 33 and 12 in the next 7 campaigns.
On paper then, Henry’s record is flawless.
But it’s not just records where the king excels. His recent comeback to Arsenal has been an emotional roller coaster for Arsenal fans, and something of a fairytale for supporters and the man himself.
Fernando Torres, a man with 18 games and 0 goals (I believe, I can’t be bothered to check) was bought for Â£50 million only a year ago. Thierry Henry, a man who has been away from England for 6 years has had a total playing time of 96 minutes, and scored 3 goals – 2 of them dramatic match winners.
Have legends like Zidane, Maradona or Pele managed to do this? The simple answer is no.
And besides all that, it is Thierry’s level of consistency at the highest level which makes him the greatest for me. He has played 17 seasons at the top top level – for Monaco, Juventus, Arsenal and Barcelona – and raked up 316 goals in 4 of the best leagues in Europe. This gives him an average of 19 goals per season, which is hugely impressive in itself. Take the goals per season average just for the Arsenal and Barcelona campaigns then the average is even more impressive, giving exactly 25 goals per season. And that includes his injury-ravaged final seasons at both clubs.
You have players like Messi, Maradona, Ronaldo, Pele, Zidane, Platini, Best, etc. who could be considered the greatest ever but have any of them maintained a 17 year consistency like Thierry Henry?
And Henry has lit up so many matches and given the fans so many special moments it’s hard to count how many there have been.
My final argument for Henry being the greatest is that he won the league several times, was part of the team that went unbeaten a whole season and won other honours with Arsenal. Arsenal are a fantastic side with a beautiful history, but it’s not unreasonable to say we are not one of the most, how can I put this, naturally biggest football clubs. We are competing at the top level because of Arsene Wenger but we don’t have the bottomless pit of money other teams such as Real Madrid, Barcelona, Manchester United and others have.
So in that sense, Thierry’s accomplishments are even more outstanding. He didn’t join a massive club when he arrived so to do all he has done is all the more impressive. He didn’t achieve his honours and records with a team such as Barcelona, Real Madrid or Manchester United.
I’m not saying players like Messi, Ronaldinho, Zidane and Ronaldo aren’t great, but it is much easier to achieve honours and accolades with a more prestigious football club with the infrastructure to bring in the worlds best players.
You might think I’m crazy, but Thierry Henry is not just the king of Arsenal, but he is the king of football.
Edit: I’ve also just checked and of the all-time greatest goalscorers Thierry Henry has the best goals to goals per game ratio, at 0.68, compared to the next best of Alan Shearer who’s record is 0.59 goals per game.