Thierry Henry is the best player the Premier League has ever seen.
A bold claim, yes, but its one backed up by some of footballs other greatest ever players who all agree the Frenchman was a sight to behold in his prime.
There was no other player like Thierry Henry, who hung up his boots in 2014 with a record of 360 goals and 163 assists in 790 appearances at club level
Its been six years since Titi retired, and TEN since he left Barcelona and began to wind down his career in New York. Has it really been that long?
While some of us might have forgotten just how good he was, for Arsenal fans, of course, Henrys brilliance will be forever etched in their memories.
He might have won more silverware for Barca, but when you think of Henry, you think of Arsenal.
And if youve perhaps forgotten how good he was, youve probably forgotten that initially, Gooners were not convinced.
When a low-in-confidence Henry was signed by Arsene Wenger for a reported £11million from Juventus in 1999, it was not received well. He was seen as massively overpriced.
Well, he soon proved them wrong and he left the club eight seasons later as their all-time top scorer, with 228 goals in 375 games, and arguably the clubs greatest ever legend.
Henry finished his Arsenal career with two Premier League winners medals, as well as a wealth of individual awards, including four Golden Boots.
And he wasnt just a goalscorer, either. He was a lethal finisher, yes, but he could do everything else. He could ping a pass, slot one through, he could shrug off defenders, he could run very, very fast just ask Jamie Carragher all while keeping the ball like it was taped to his boots.
He wasn’t quite as spectacular after joining Barcelona, but still bagged 49 goals and 27 assists in 121 matches, and won seven titles, including a brilliant league, cup and European treble in 2008/09.
Henry often faced criticism for not quite hitting the same heights for his country as he did in his club career but, come on, he lifted the World Cup, European Championship and is also still Frances top scorer with 51 goals in 124 games.
Henry’s legendary status at Arsenal was cemented, as if there was any doubt, by his dramatic goal against Leeds in the FA Cup. The club even had to change his statue outside the Emirates to update his goal tally, following his return on loan from New York Red Bulls.
He had the Va Va Voom off the pitch too the striker was the cover star of Pro Evolution Soccer when it was actually a better and more popular game that FIFA was that because it had Henry on the front? Wed like to think so.
He was ranked No.1 in Arsenals official 50 Greatest Players list, and was described on their website as the kid in the playground who was better than everyone else with the ball at his feet.
And we couldnt have put it better. It was simply true. In his pomp, there was no equal in the whole of the Premier League.
There was an ego, an arrogance about the way he played, but not in a bad way. He earned it, he was just that good. It was almost unfair.
But what have his friends, foes, coaches and distant admirers said about the French legend? Take a look below!
And lets be clear, this is about Henry as a player, not a manager. Lets not go there
Arsene Wenger:
Thierry Henry could take the ball in the middle of the park and score a goal that no one else in the world could score.
He is a player who had everything you dream of as a manager.
What makes him special? He has a mixture of physical talent and technical ability, as well as remarkable intelligence and above all a great passion for the game.
And what people also forget for many top level athletes, is he was dedicated to his job, with a very serious life. He is simply a model professional who won everything you can in our world.
Arsene Wenger was Henry’s manager at Arsenal for eight years
Arsenal legend Alan Smith:
Henry is the best player I have ever seen ply his trade in this country. Not just the best striker, but the best player, due to the fact that I saw him do things no one else has done.
He reduced top-class opponents into helpless also-rans. He totally embarrassed seasoned professionals with his outrageous pace, strength, skill and confidence.
He can do things Ronaldo can’t. When he’s in the mood there’s no stopping him. He elevated the striker’s art on to a level not seen before or since.
Alan Brazil and Jamie O’Hara disagree on the Henry vs Aguero debate
Pavel Nedved:
After winning the Ballon dOr in 2003, the Juventus legend admitted his surprise that Henry finished second in the vote. Says it all.
For me, Thierry Henry is the best forward in the world now.
I am very happy. I did not think I would beat Thierry Henry, Paolo Maldini or Zinedine Zidane and if I had voted I would have voted for Thierry and for the other players on the podium.
I am very happy for myself, my wife, my children and country but I don’t know how I beat Thierry Henry or Zinedine Zidane.
Pavel Nedved admitted he had no idea how he won the Ballon d’Or over Thierry Henry or Zinedine Zidane in 2003
That result has been called one of the biggest robberies in football history.
That year, Henry scored 32 goals and conjured up an astounding 28 assists in 55 games in all competitions – including 20 in the Premier League, which remains a record for assists in one season.
Nedved, meanwhile, got nine goals, two assists in 29 Serie A games. And he was named the European Footballer of the year. What?
After the ceremony in France, Wenger said: Thierry Henry will go a very long way and everything will depend on him. He is a phenomenal player.
How right he was.
Former Chelsea striker Gianluca Vialli:
The only way to stop Thierry Henry? With a gun!
Zinedine Zidane:
Ronaldinho is a special player, but Thierry Henry is probably technically the most gifted footballer ever to play the beautiful game.
Were close friends throughout their careers and where the heroes of a France team that won the World Cup and European Championship
Lionel Messi:
The Barcelona icon, arguably the greatest player of all time, said he was scared to look Henry in the face when he arrived at the Nou Camp. Let that sink in.
The first day he entered the dressing room, I did not dare to look him in the face, Messi told L’Equipe.
I knew everything he had done in England. I had an image of him made and suddenly we were on the same team.
What I feel for Titi may be a form of admiration.
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, proportionate.
Henry may have been 29 when Arsenal sold him to Barcelona in 2007, but the striker was still in his prime and he shone alongside Samuel Eto’o and Lionel Messi
Ray Parlour, speaking to talkSPORT:
In his first five or six games he couldnt hit a barn door. He just couldnt finish. I was thinking: Oh no, were not going to win the league, we havent got a chance!’
But what a player he turned out to be he could win a game on his own.
The game that always sticks out in my mind was during the unbeaten season. We got knocked out of the FA Cup by Manchester United and then we lost to Chelsea in the Champions League, and we had Liverpool in the league at the weekend.
At half time we were 2-1 down, so it could have been a horrendous week, but in the second-half Henry was absolutely unplayable. Thats the game where he dribbled past Didi Hamann, Jamie Carragher fell over and just slid the ball into the corner. He ended up with a hat-trick and we won 4-2!
I was very lucky to play with some brilliant finishers and I thought nobody could beat Ian Wright s scoring record, but Thierry beat it by 50-odd goals!
What a player!
Jamie Carragher on THAT famous goal against Liverpool:
When he hit top gear and ran past you, it was like trying to chase after someone on a motorbike.
Sometimes as a defender against some of the top players we had at that time Alan Shearer, Didier Drogba, Wayne Rooney, Robin van Persie theres not a lot you can do in certain situations because they were that good. But in his prime, Henry would simply run past you and there wasnt a lot I could do.
When Arsenal were The Invincibles, Henry rivalled Ronaldinho as the best in the world. A great goal-scorer, not to mention a scorer of great goals.
He is the finest player I have seen in the Premier League. His game didnt have a weakness.
Ronaldinho was a huge fan:
Henry is a beautiful player and has got complete technique, I adore watching him. I respect him very much as a man and as a footballer. He reminds me of myself.
And there is no greater compliment.
Patrick Vieira:
Thierry is the best striker in the world, by far. Thierry doesn’t just score goals, even when he’s not having a good day he can make an important pass. He is a strong character. If things go wrong, he bounces straight back. His effect on the club is very big.
Paul Scholes:
On his day he was absolutely scintillating, a supreme athlete and a magnificent footballer. What amazed me was that he never seemed to get a sweat on. He could run 100 meters past five players and he wouldnt even be breathing heavily.
Jamie Redknapp:
Henry was so quick, so graceful. It was almost like he could run through a puddle and wouldnt make a splash. He was that good, it was effortless during the game.
The first time I played against him, he used to drift to the left side of the pitch, he used to cut in, pick the ball up, go past two, and just bend it into the corner.
Boy, how do you do that? He was such a good player.
Henry is one of the Premier League’s greatest ever players – scoring at least 24 goals in six consecutive seasons and winning a record four Golden Boots
And finally, Martin Keown with a quote that almost brings a tear to the eye…
I do remember saying to him when he scored his first goal, Ill be able to tell my kids I played with you, and I meant every word of it.
He said I was crazy afterwards, but I had seen a special player and I made sure he knew that.