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Posted by Tom Adams on 07/14/2010

Henry is a world famous face © Getty Images

New York’s sizeable Irish population may vehemently disagree, but Wednesday’s news that Thierry Henry will be playing for the Red Bulls next season is quite a coup for the club, and potentially for MLS as a whole.

While the claim on the club’s official website that “Henry comes in his prime” is patently false - his peak coming seven years ago when Arsenal went the 2003-04 season unbeaten - the Frenchman, at 32, still has much to offer as he begins his career in the USA.

A phenomenon on the pitch, albeit one whose powers have noticeably waned, Henry is a marketing man’s dream off it. Articulate, intelligent and handsome, he is a perfect poster boy for MLS, a definitive signing very much in the David Beckham mould.

But unlike Beckham, you suspect Henry will not be distracted from the task at hand. Given France’s implosion at the World Cup it is possible that Henry’s international cycle has come to an end. There may not be sporadic loan moves back to Europe, interfering with MLS priorities, in an attempt to add to his 51 international goals.

Neither is Henry as committed to the celebrity lifestyle as his new MLS rival. Yes, he is acutely aware of his earning potential and boasts famous friends like San Antonio Spurs’ Tony Parker, but he has never been subject to accusations that a thirst for fame has got in the way of his football.

If Red Bulls have recruited a fully focused and committed Henry, then they have a formidable asset indeed, even if he is no longer good enough to command a place in the Barca squad.

That much was made painfully evident when, on April 28, Barca were heading out of the Champions League and Pep Guardiola left Henry on the bench against Inter Milan, instead placing his trust in rookie forward Jeffren. It was clear then that Henry had no future in Catalunya.

With Pedro in such promising form across the 2009-10 season, Henry made only 15 league starts for Barcelona, scoring four goals, as he struggled to retain a place in the side. Which player wouldn’t? This was, after all, a team that smashed the previous record when amassing 99 points in La Liga.

But only 12 months ago, Henry was an integral member of the side that won Barca’s first Treble, playing a full part in a formidable three-man attack alongside Samuel Eto’o and Lionel Messi. That is not so long ago as to be rendered irrelevant.

Yes his “prime” has come and gone, and he may have lost a degree of that electric pace that saw him tear Premier League defences asunder on a regular basis, but Henry remains an accomplished footballer.

Unlike Beckham, he has the capability to conjure up magic of his own accord and does not require talented players around him. A fact that surely means he will be capable of impressive feats in his new league.

A country that once hosted the likes of George Best and Pele, through Carlos Valderrama and Hristo Stoichkov, deserved a modern day superstar worthy of the tag. Beckham was not that man, but Henry may well be.

Comments

Posted by Mike on 07/14/2010

If there is a role model in sports to me, Mr Henry is that person .

Posted by rjayyy on 07/14/2010

I agree - Henry will add a lot to MLS and the Red Bull. I'd love to see Raul come over next

Posted by Joe on 07/14/2010

He's still a good player and is sure to rip apart MLS defenses with relative ease. Good signing for New York. He's a bonafide euro football star.

Posted by Kevin on 07/14/2010

Henry has a lot to give skills-wise, but how much is he going to attract new fans to MLS? Beckham drew fans, in part, because of his "international playboy" style - the Armani ads, the Spice Girl wife, the hairdos and the abs. The casual soccer fan was drawn to Beckham because of his celebrity status. But after distraction upon distraction with the England national team and AC Milan, Beckham never proved to be the ambassador that MLS was hoping for.

Followers of the international game, of Arsenal, and of Barcelona will flock to see Henry's games.
Henry still has the talent on the pitch to impress.

But it's Henry's off-the-field exploits that will be judged in the years to come. Whether he likes it or not, Henry is now the key international representative for MLS and is tasked with growing the game here in the States. We will have to see if he's committed to that duty.

Posted by Simon Varley on 07/14/2010

Its definitely a great coup for the MLS however each team will need to bring in similar quality to improve the overall standard of the league. The teams seem to be targeting the older players who are looking to see out their days in the sun. We should be looking to get younger players 19-20 who are struggling to find first team play on loan from the big clubs. That would instill hunger and provide a true inspiration to the young college players coming through.

Posted by Ben on 07/14/2010

Unlike Beckham, he's actually good!

Posted by Pat on 07/14/2010

I guess you are right, he's prime might have come and gone but he still has what it takes to impress in his new league, he does not really require talented players around him to exile.....

Posted by Jordan on 07/14/2010

I agree. Henry is more of the flashy goal scorer that Americans need to see to give MLS a boost. Beckham never fit that bill.

Posted by LaBlaugrana on 07/14/2010

The author clearly didn't watch any of Henry's "contributions" to Barcelona this year. He looks beyond finished, and much worse than Beckham did in his last year in Spain. Unlike Henry, Beckham never had any pace to lose, so he maintained most of his ability. Henry won't be joining a good side either. Last year's Red Bulls were among the worst sides to ever play in MLS. I, for one, expect little from Thierry.

Posted by Henry on 07/14/2010

I'm going to set an MLS record for goals in a single season that won't be beaten for 40 years. Wut!!

Posted by Garrett Davis on 07/14/2010

I am thrilled for Henry to arrive, but you are forgetting that Beckham IS the man. Have you failed to remember the Galaxy's run to the MLS Cup final last year? Just because of his desire to play for England, and for AC Milan in the off season, doesn't mean he hasn't been "the man" in MLS. He has done wonders on and off the field for our domestic league. Hoping to see a Galaxy vs. Red Bull final this year!

Posted by Glenn on 07/14/2010

Why doe this have to be about Beckham? Has Beckham ever been described as a player who runs at a defense with the ball? No. Why can't this blog simply be that MLS has secured the services of a once great player (Henry), who will no doubt make MLS defenders look silly. If I recall Beckham came to MLS fresh off winning LA Liga as an important member of Real Madrid down the stretch, while injured. Henry as much as I love him, spent most of the past season at Barca shining the bench with his ass...not the same I'm afraid

Posted by Anonymous on 07/14/2010

whatever.....he loves NY and is getting paid. It's his post football lifestyle that has brought him here.

Posted by Jag S on 07/14/2010

Very well written, could have been said better.

Posted by Anonymous on 07/14/2010

yes better then beckham and good for the mls... Americans like goals and he provides them

Posted by jtm371 on 07/15/2010

Tom
i disagree henry is way over the hill.could not break into a starting lineup of a team that went 0 for four.if you ask anyone that follows soccer and ask what henry has done it will be the handball and the practice strike.henry is style over substance.

Posted by TCereja on 07/15/2010

How much did he sign for? Good for Henry, you know. It looks like a good deal for him. He's probably being paid a lot, will get all the playing time he wants, and won't have such tough competition. I doubt it will do much for the MLS, though. Why would someone that doesn't care about soccer suddenly become interested because an aging star from Europe is coming?

Posted by Anonymous on 07/15/2010

No question Henry in his prime is better than Beckham ever was. He will be more exciting than Beckham for American soccer fans to follow because he is a natural goal scorer. Should create plenty of ESPN highlight footage.

Posted by nate on 07/15/2010

A good article by Mr. Adams until the last paragraph where he loses all credibility. He seemingly suggests David Beckham is not worthy of the label superstar. Being a subjective term i wont vehemently disagree but did you see what happened when Madrid started using him on the wing after he was on the bench most of the season? and thats to say nothing of his career with united.

Also the assertion that Henry did not need talented players around him is false. Henry is immensely talented and even past his prime i would love to have him attacking for my team but the man has never been short of a supporting cast. take a look at the arsenal roster every year he was there. I have nothing else to say about that.

MLS is slowly maing strides to overcome that label of a retirement league but has a ways to go. Welcome the talent that is henry but keep things in perspective and ease up on the beckham bashing. He is still good enough to play at the international level when healthy.

Posted by jimmy on 07/15/2010

blanco was a superstar when he played in chicago

Posted by Blowcephus on 07/15/2010

Huh? Pep kept TH14 on the bench for one reason, and one only... his protracted victory trot around The Emirates, after Arse stole a home draw at the death of their first leg CL match. His self serving ovation grabbing stunt infuriated the Barca FO and he never left the bench after that. He may have lost a step from the Arse hey days, but money and attitude are behind this Barca yard sale. As there isn't a single EPL side where TH wouldn't step in and start tomorrow. So just stop with the has been junk. This fellow is 13 months removed from a 20+ goal season for the best club team in the world. F.R.O. Haters

Posted by Emmanuel on 07/16/2010

Congratulations to MLS, Henry will bring entertaining football to America.

Posted by JT on 07/16/2010

Great article. As a lifelong Arsenal fan I can attest that Henry is one of the best players to ever play in the English Premier League. Barcelona paid a ton of money to sign Henry from Arsenal just a few short years ago. So, while he may not be in his "prime", he instantly gives MLS and the Red Bulls credibility and a formidable attacking partnership with Angel.

As for Beckham, while he is a good player, his arrival generated so muuch excitement more for his celebrity and good looks than his actual skill as a footballer.

Congratulations Thierry and welcome to New York.

Posted by Ike on 07/16/2010

I agree that Henry has the skill to be an istant impact for the Red Bulls, can't wait to boo him when he comes to Philly in Oct, but his once most needed asset, speed, is fading behind him. He needs to become that possesion CAM/ST to fully be the production player he was. He got the ball skill and the striking ability to be "the man".

Im not going to bash the almighty Beckham, but he was this super winger for two huge reasons, 1. Gary Neville 2. Sergio Ramos , these players had the pace to make the overlapping runs to give Beckham the time and space to deliver balls.

I can't wait to see who the othe big name players are that want to join the league. Figo, Zidane, Pirlo, Puyol.....

Posted by Alan Morris on 07/16/2010

Terry Henry (as us Brits call him) went there in the nick of time. Would NY have wanted him if they could have got Mr Heskey playing for them ; )

Posted by Matt on 07/16/2010

jtm371.. you are an absolute idiot. People who "follow soccer" (such an ugly word) will only remember Henry for the handball and "practice strike"? I'm assuming you mean that he was involved in the France squad's strike at the World Cup, which was more about Anelka and Evra, than anyone else.

Clearly you know nothing of football. Henry may be remembered for that by Johnny-come-latelys, but Henry will be remember by every real football fan for his oozing class at Arsenal, wonderful goals and blistering pace. You obviously haven't followed the game for more than the last two years.

Posted by Simon b on 07/16/2010

Henry is finished and has been for some time. I think he lost all enthusiasm for the game after the handball incident in the France v Ireland match and I don't think he'll ever recover it. MLS has been and always will be a soccer graveyard for all but American players.

Posted by Jorge maradona on 07/26/2010

I believe that a new SSS stadium should be built in the metropolitan area of Boston, since there are a lot of europeans who live there instead of playing at the Gillete stadium. Another reason is that it is too incovenient for college and university students to go to the Gillete stadium and there should be a discount bus ride from the metropolitant area of Boston to the GILLETE Stadium.

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