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Welcome to New York, Thierry!
Today’s post is only slightly Arsenal-related….
At 1:15pm today, Red Bull New York will hold a press conference unveiling their new signing, Thierry Henry. The transfer has been in the works since at least January and Henry is expected to make his debut on Thursday, July 22 at Red Bull Arena in the first match of the New York Football Challenge against Spurs. As a long-time season-ticket holder of my local club, RBNY, I can tell you that the excitement not just among fans but in the city as a whole is palpable.
Of course, there have been the inevitable comparisons to David Beckham and his transfer to the LA Galaxy. But I find the people making these to not have much of a clue about Thierry and his personality as a footballer. As Arsenal fans that watched him become the club’s all-time leading goalscorer and win trophy after trophy, we know that Henry is not the type of player to play for a payday. He’s far too innately competitive for that.
At the same time, despite a disappointing season at Barca in which his role and minutes were greatly diminished, Henry is only 32 years old. MLS defenses will not be able to deal with a relatively healthy Henry, especially when the league’s most dangerous striker, Juan Pablo Angel, is beside him.
Henry has spent his summer vacations in NYC for years now and absolutely loves the city. He is not ready to retire from football, and shouldn’t be. But, at the same time, he quite understandably has no desire to remain as a bit player at Barcelona or to join a mid-table team in England like West Ham despite their ridiculously high wage offers.
Here in NYC, Henry can continue to play in a place where he will be adored by supporters and, most importantly, play a big role in the club’s bid for their first-ever silverware. Meanwhile, Henry can play a big role in helping to continue the growth of football and MLS in the United States and around the world in a substantive, non-Beckham like manner. Surely these challenges would prove more attractive to a 32-year old footballer who has already won everything there is to win than sitting on the bench in La Liga or aiming for a top 10 finish in the Premier League.
Red Bull New York, and its previous incarnation, the NY/NJ Metrostars, are the only original MLS team that has not won a trophy since the league began almost 15 years ago. The supporters here are long-suffering. Finally, after 13 years of false promises, Red Bull came in and gave the club the best stadium in the country, brought in Juan Pablo Angel, and, today, Thierry Henry arrives at the club. The club is also seeking a third designated player (a player who can be paid more than the league’s maximum salary) rumored to be either Rafa Marquez or Freddie Ljungberg.
The fact is that a great challenge awaits Thierry Henry. It is made a bit easier by the fact that RBNY have the fourth best points total in the league. But, it will be a challenge nonetheless. As an Arsenal supporter, I am happy that Thierry has found a way to give his career at this stage even more meaning, and, as a RBNY supporter, I am excited at the prospect of being able to watch an Arsenal legend on a weekly basis from my front-row season ticket.