Is Thierry Henry really ‘selling out’?

With news this week that Thierry Henry has completed his move to MLS outfit New York Red Bulls I’ve heard some fans wishing him well and others, more expectedly, brandishing him a ‘sell out’. Before falling too easily into the second bracket it’s worth considering the player’s career and history and, as you can see from his staggering record, Henry’s is anomalous in its successes.

The argument against Henry is simply that, at 32, he still has quality to offer teams who play at a higher standard than the American league. Considering the fitness levels of the modern footballer i.e. more and more players can survive at the very top flight well into their mid thirties (Maldini did it until he was 40, Beckham, Cannavaro, Giggs, Scholes), Henry certainly has a good few years left on the pitch. I also don’t doubt that a host of clubs would have been willing to take on the 32-year-old in some capacity. But we’re looking at this from a fan’s perspective; changing the scope of reason slightly we should ask what is the player’s motivation?

Henry enjoyed unparalleled success at Arsenal. He picked up every individual award on offer, was top scorer for an unprecedented four seasons, became Arsenal’s all time leading goal scorer, the first player to retain the European Golden Boot, and picked up two Premier League winners’ medals. His time at Barcelona, though underplayed in our media, was a huge success (and he played a pivotal role in the 2008/2009 treble winning campaign, netting 26 goals): winning La Liga twice, the Champions League, the Copa del Rey, the Spanish and European Super Cups, and the World Club Championships. He has won every single title club football has to offer.

Accounting for his international record takes his achievements to more fantastical heights: winning the World Cup in 1998, the European Championship in 2000, and the Confederations Cup in 2003 (finishing as France’s top scorer in each competition and picking up the Golden Boot and Golden Ball in the Confederations Cup). So Henry has won absolutely everything that club football and international football has to offer. Why be a journeyman for the next couple of years in European football thus allowing his legacy as a player to be smeared by wanton performances?

Spending a few seasons playing regularly at a club where his experiences and ability is considered indispensable, enjoying the twilight of his career (because, at the end of it all, this is what matters most) in a hugely popular city, and getting paid handsomely represents a far more appealing offer. And even if the sole purpose of the move is for comfort and material value, does it really matter? He’s achieved everything he possibly could have in a career that saw him become one of the best players in the world for half a decade.

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