For all his success with Arsenal FC, longevity in the UEFA Champions League has proved more difficult for Thierry Henry than outstripping and outfoxing football's most celebrated defences. Indeed, a semi-final appearance with his first team, AS Monaco FC, in 1998 is the closest the quicksilver striker has come to appearing in club football's showpiece fixture.
Five years since adding the European crown to the world title won with France, the 27-year-old longs to fill the Champions League-sized chasm in a trophy cabinet decorated with some of the game's most glittering prizes. "Sometimes football is strange," Henry told uefa.com. "We didn't have many stars but I reached the semi-finals with Monaco that season - five years trying with Arsenal and we've never done that."
Twice quarter-finalists, Arsenal are in danger of missing out on that stage again this season following a 3-1 first-leg defeat at FC Bayern München in the last 16. Starved of chances at the Olympiastadion, where Kolo Touré's late strike revived the Gunners, Henry hopes the midweek FA Cup defeat of Sheffield United FC and the Highbury crowd will combine to lift the side for Wednesday's return against the Bundesliga leaders.
"There is something extra about a Champions League game if it's knockout and you've lost away and need a win at home," he said. "Then you really need help from the fans." To be classed as a truly great team, many feel that Arsène Wenger's Arsenal have to eliminate Bayern and become the fifth English club to lift the European Champion Clubs' Cup. For Henry, however, that mark was achieved on 15 May 2004.
That was when Arsenal, combining graft with spellbinding craft, completed the 2003/04 season unbeaten - the first English side since Preston North End FC in 1889 to do so. "If someone does it in the future, we will still go down in history as the first team in the modern game to do it," said Henry. "
When you're the first to do something it always makes it extra special." Another first was Henry's retention of England's two Footballer of the Year awards last season, to which he added the ESM Golden Shoe.
Despite "putting team trophies ahead of individual ones", it is with pride that Henry learns that he is the first man to claim a place in all four editions of the uefa.com users' Team of the Year. "I always explain to people that I just try to be consistent and being nominated every year means I have achieved that consistency," he said.
Henry is joined in the illustrious XI by Highbury team-mate Ashley Cole - "it's well deserved for him because he's learned a lot and has been tremendous" - and is partnered in attack by Andriy Shevchenko of AC Milan. The Frenchman feels it is a partnership which would reap rewards, saying: "When you're a certain calibre of striker you can somehow play together."
While Henry reserves highest praise for Marco van Basten, "the best striker ever", it is the Stand Up, Speak Up anti-racism campaign which rouses his passion. "I started it, I do not front it and I want to make that clear," he said. "Sometimes people think that footballers cannot make decisions or have ideas but this is mine and has nothing to do with marketing. I suffered from racism and when I see [Spain coach] Luis Aragonés talking on TV he wasn't talking about Nike."
Henry, critical of the fines handed out to racists, has his own remedy for silencing them. "I try to raise my game and I've never lost it in the past," he said. "If I did lose it, I would leave my team with ten players and would let myself down too. That's not a solution, scoring goals is."
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