Arsenal icon Thierry Henry has admitted that he left Arsenal in search of the kind of competition which could only be found at Barcelona.
The Frenchman, who led Arsenal to two Premier League titles, sealed a surprise move away from the Emirates Stadium in 2007, after which he went on to finally add the Champions League to his impressive trophy cabinet.
Speaking in a video interview with UEFA, Henry insisted that his love for Arsenal never faded away, but he wanted a chance to pass the greatest test – earning a spot at Camp Nou – before his career came to an end.
“Competition is above all for me,” he admitted. “I love football, I’m an Arsenal fan, I love Arsenal, but competing is above all. That’s what drives me. That’s what makes me better. That’s what challenges me.
“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. I like to compete. That’s priceless to me. 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. That doesn’t mean I don’t love Arsenal or I’m not an Arsenal fan – my heart will always be there – but Barça was special, man.”
Despite waxing lyrical about Barcelona and how La Blaugrana had ‘re-programmed’ him, Henry was adamant that Arsène Wenger is the man he owes his career to as the boss was the one who taught him to be the best individual player he could be.
“He was like a father figure for me,” Henry confessed. “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.
“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.”
You can watch the full video on UEFA’s YouTube channel.
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