Thierry Henry should have left for Barcelona after last season.
It would have been best for Henry, as he certainly didn’t have a season to remember and has obviously wanted to leave since around November, if not earlier.
It would have been best for Arsenal, who would have received a much higher fee, and could have had an extra season to get their youngsters acclimatized to more responsibility and more playing time.
The only party who may not have benefited more from a move a year early might be Barca, who would have paid far more for Henry’s services, and would have had to figure out how to fit Henry, Ronaldinho, Eto’o, and Messi in the same team, when Messi wasn’t nearly as ready for the limelight as he is after the last season and Ronaldinho and Eto’o weren’t surrounded by falling out rumors.
Don’t get me wrong. Despite my allegiances to Liverpool, this is a sad day for the Premier League. Henry was easily the best foreign player to grace the Prem. I’d go so far as to say he’s one of the top 5 players I’ve had the luxury of watching in their prime. You can’t say enough about his abilities or quality, both on and off the field.
And £16 million bought him. £16m for Henry’s service, when he’s still yet to turn 30 and with 3 years remaining on the deal he signed with Arsenal after last season. At best, that's a little low, and at worst, it's a joke. Charlton wants more for Darren Bent. We live in a strange world. Yes, Henry’s much more injury-prone than he used to be and has lost a couple of steps, but he’s still one of the best players in the world when on form. And Spain should suit his gloriously.
I hate to keep harping on it, but if Henry had been sold last summer, Arsenal would have earned more than double what they are now. Various media reports from last summer quoted David Dein saying that the Gunners had turned down two £50m+ bids before Henry resigned. I know the majority of you can do the math, but £50m is a fair bit more than £16m, especially considering Henry’s impact this past season.
And while we’re on the topic of David Dein, I do believe his leaving is less of a reason for Henry’s departure than he’s given credit for, but it can’t be overlooked, simply because of the relationship between the two. Dein’s son is one of Henry’s main agents, and Henry was the best man at Darren Dein’s wedding. Still, had Henry wanted to stay, he would have, with or without Dein. I just can’t put so much credence into the actions of one director. No matter how close an ally, an executive leaving cannot be the end-all, be-all for Henry at Arsenal. I also still reckon that sooner or later, Stan Kroenke is going to take control of Arsenal by hook or crook, and Dein won’t be out of a job for very long.
Wenger is a bit of a different case. I have no doubt that the media reports are right, and Wenger will see out the final year of his contract, but beyond that, your guess is as good as mine. And Henry knew that. Players that might replace Henry will the funds Arsenal will receive will also know that. I can’t wait to see how that plays out, especially when Real Madrid puts the full-court press on Wenger for his services. Which will be nice, having Arsene wooed through the media instead of Rafa for a change.
I am, however, fairly certain that Wenger is fine with Henry’s exit. In all probability, he’s the man who negotiated Henry’s transfer to Barca. Not to mention there’s a long history of Wenger getting rid of players around their 30th birthday or when they start to fade, whichever comes first: Vieira, Petit, Overmars, and Pires immediately spring to mind. Arsenal will have to buy some form of replacement, with only two proven strikers on the books and Aliadiere and Baptista on their way out. But in van Persie and Adebayor, the Gunners have two very good strikers that Wenger is very fond of, and I honestly don’t know how much money will actually be spent on Henry’s successor.
As a fan of the game, I’m saddened to see a player of this quality leaving England. It truly is the end of an era. But, as a fan of Liverpool, which I never tire of saying comes first and foremost, I’m thrilled to be seeing the back of him. He’s scored something like 9 goals against Liverpool in his career at Arsenal, including a hat trick in 2004 and a brace in 2006 that I’ll always have trouble forgetting.
Now the transfer market should get good. Barca will be selling (who, I have no idea, but something has got to give), Arsenal will be buying, and everyone’s aware of this. This will kick the summer into a higher gear for sure. Although I can’t say I’m thrilled that another major English team will be in the market for a striker.
For shits and giggles, below is my favorite goal from Henry. It’s not a belter, but I can’t think of a better way to remember his Premier League stint. It’s pure Henry: clever and class. Both qualities will be dearly missed, even by the opposition.