Henry wins award for third year while Cole hones fitness

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Thierry Henry was yesterday named Footballer of the Year for a record third time by the Football Writers' Association while his team-mate Ashley Cole, who has barely played a game this year, continued his recovery from injury with 90 minutes for the reserves.

Henry is the first player in 59 years of the award to receive the accolade three times. Sir Stanley Matthews, Kenny Dalglish, John Barnes and Gary Lineker all won it twice. It has been a fine season for Arsenal's Frenchman, who broke the club's all-time goalscoring record and has now led the Gunners to their first European Cup final against Barcelona, in Paris on 17 May. Henry also won the award in 2003 and 2004.

Cole gave Arsenal and England a timely boost by playing a full reserve match last night. Cole looked back to full fitness during Arsenal's 3-1 win at West Ham in his second competitive game and first in public since he injured an ankle in a reserve match against Tottenham two months ago. Before that he was out for five months after suffering a stress fracture in his foot.

His return could see him play a part in Arsenal's last three League games of the season and their Champions' League final against Barcelona. That would put him in line for a place in the England World Cup squad to be named next month.

Robert Pires has revealed he has opened talks with Benfica over a possible move to Portugal. Pires is considering his future at Arsenal with his contract up in the summer and only a new one-year deal on offer.

"I can confirm negotiations with Benfica," Pires said on Portuguese television. "I like Benfica very much, my family are Benfica fans and some of my family still live in Queluz."

Pires, 32, has also interested Villarreal, Fiorentina and Roma.