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Thierry Henry on Arsenal, Barcelona and his dream team-mate

The former France, Arsenal and Barcelona striker reflects on his glory days.

Thierry Henry celebrates his UEFA Champions League triumph with Barcelona
Thierry Henry celebrates his UEFA Champions League triumph with Barcelona AFP via Getty Images

A stunning forward in his prime, Thierry Henry broke through as a winger at Monaco. He won a EURO and a FIFA World Cup with France, but shone brightest at Arsenal from 1999–2007, claiming two Premier League titles and two ESM Golden Shoes. At 29, he moved to seek a new challenge at Barcelona, where he lifted two Liga titles and the big prize that had eluded him: the UEFA Champions League, in 2009.

Now 42, Henry is spending lockdown in Canada where he is coach of Montreal Impact, "cooking, cleaning the house, working out, taking care of myself", and he enjoyed talking over his career with UEFA.com reporter Graham Hunter.

On working with Arsène Wenger at Arsenal

He was like a father figure for me. So as you can imagine, with your dad, you argue, you scream, he punishes you. It's complicated at times, but that's what happens when you love someone.

Champions League 100 club: Thierry Henry
Champions League 100 club: Thierry Henry

Arsène triggered my brain, [and every day it was] about asking myself the right questions. I used to complain that guys couldn't see me – you know, typical strikers: 'They don't want to give me the ball.' He said: 'Well, ask yourself if that guy can [see] you the same way that the other guy can.' And I started to adapt my game to others instead of waiting for them to adapt to my game.

He [triggered] what I could be capable of as a player. And then you have Pep [Guardiola], who tactically triggered my brain, so those two guys had a massive impact on me.

On leaving Arsenal for Barcelona in 2007

Competition is above all for me. That's what drives me. That's what makes me better. When I went to Barcelona, Ronaldinho was on the left, [Samuel] Eto'o was in the middle, and [Lionel] Messi was on the right, and nobody told me I was going to play. You can go somewhere and your heart can stay somewhere else. That's exactly what happened.

I went to Barcelona, I learned a lot – a hell of a lot – about something that I thought I had down to a tee. I thought I knew football, [but] at Barcelona I got de-programmed and re-programmed. Barça was special, man.

On the 2009 UEFA Champions League final win against Manchester United

2009 final highlights: Barcelona 2-0 Manchester United
2009 final highlights: Barcelona 2-0 Manchester United

It was the birthday of my daughter, 27 May. I'd never won the Champions League. I couldn't bend my knee. I couldn't accelerate properly. The same with [Andrés] Iniesta: Iniesta had a problem with his thigh; he couldn't sprint, I couldn't sprint. They were asking me: 'Are you OK?' I was like: 'Of course I'm OK.' I’m never going to say: 'I'm not OK.' We were all injured, we were missing players, but when you have the ball [in that tiki-taka system], you don't have to run.

Watch the 2009 final in full on UEFA.tv

The way Barça play is amazing, because that system will make the difference. If you're fresh it's a 6-0, and if you're not fresh you're still going to make a difference, because you are keeping the ball.

I was over the moon [when we won]. I was like: 'Finally!' It was kind of an end for me. I carried on playing because the World Cup was in 2010 and my coach in the national team said: 'Thierry, you can't just walk out like that on the team and blah blah.' But if the World Cup wasn't after, I think I would have gone to the MLS way before [I did].

On the best player he never played with

The sublime Michael Laudrup with Barcelona in 1992
The sublime Michael Laudrup with Barcelona in 1992Icon Sport via Getty Images

Michael Laudrup, simple. One of the most important things in the game is passing the ball. It’s like a gift you're sharing with your team. And for me, in history, I don't know any better passer than Michael Laudrup – simple as that. I would have loved to be on the end of his passing, because all you had to do is run, and I could do that!

Some people have been touched by God, and he was. I've said it so many times: I think he is recognised among players, but the world of football did not give him the credit that guy deserved. Andrés Iniesta made his game from him. 'La Croqueta' is Laudrup, it's not Iniesta. As much as I love Andrés, it’s Laudrup. He only wanted to please people. When you look at the teams he played for, that's it for me – let's stop there.

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