When the New York Red Bulls walked off the field last week, following a defeat to rival New England, there was disappointment surrounding the team for sure but there was something else as well. The team had come up short in their quest for the MLS cup but one player may have also reached the end of career. Red Bulls’ captain Thierry Henry announced days later that he would not be returning to New York the following season. The ensuing rumors have been that he could return to his original club, Arsenal, where Henry was once a star. In what capacity he would return is unclear though. He would definitely be welcomed back to the English Premier League club, but there is speculation it could be as the Gunners manager rather than as a player.
While no one is quite sure what will happen with Henry, there is no doubting that he is a legendary player who still has the capability of competing. He has shown his ability to be a great player in both the MLS and the EPL. Just this past year, the former French international tied the Red Bulls’ single season record for assists. On top of that, Henry performed well when it mattered this year as he set up or scored the game-winning goal in seven of New York’s thirteen wins this season. Then in the postseason set up five more goals in as many games, the best mark of any MLS player in the 2014 playoffs. Clearly, the man they call “Titi” still has some fight in him.
Deciding where he sits as far as all-time greats, Henry’s resume speaks for itself. He cracked the top-50 list for career goal scorers in MLS history. There are only two players on higher up on the list have played fewer games. Those record-tying 14 assists he chalked up this season vaulted him into the top-50 for assists as well. As for his time with the Gunners, Henry still ranks fourth (Wayne Rooney just recently passed him for third) in Premier League history with 175 goals. That number is the most goals scored all time by a player for one club and tops in Arsenal’s 128-year history. Henry also ranks sixth all-time for assists with eighty in his eight-year career at Emirates Field, also an Arsenal record.
Internationally, Henry was a menace scoring the most goals in French football history (51). He was also part of the 1998 World Cup champion team as their highest scorer. His run continued to his inclusion on the 2000 European Championship team. Then, in 2001 and 2003, he was a mainstay for France’s Confederation Cup victories. In 2003 especially, Henry dominated the competition, winning both the Golden Boot for best player and Golden Shoe for top goal scorer. He was a star in France’s run to the finals of the 2006 World Cup, where they eventually lost to Italy on penalties. Through and through, Henry has been a class act who gives goal keepers trouble either setting up goals or scoring them himself.
There is only one player who sits higher than Henry on both lists (Rooney) in EPL history, and the Manchester United man is often considered an all-time great so I think it is only fair to put Henry in the same category. I still think he can compete in the Premier League, not at the same level he once did, but as a solid option at forward. So whatever happens to the now former Red Bull, he will be able to contribute at a high level. He is certainly one of the top strikers to ever play in the Premier League and probably one of the best international attackers the world has ever seen. His soccer IQ will let him be a contributor, either as a player, manager or some combination of the two, for many years to come.