THIERRY HENRY yesterday became the second international striker to sign for Arsenal within two days when he moved from Juventus for an estimated pounds 11m, a record fee for the Highbury club.
Arsene Wenger said he was not worried that Henry was a close friend of Nicolas Anelka's, nor that the two had a lot in common. "Thierry is much more of an extrovert than Nicolas was," Wenger said. "He is a team player who will work hard for the whole team."
The recruitment of the 21-year-old, who signed a five-year deal, follows that of Davor Suker from Real Madrid on Monday and will bolster Wenger's striking options following Anelka's departure.
Comparisons between Henry and Anelka, who finally agreed a pounds 23m move to Real Madrid this week after a summer of procrastination, are obvious - both are young, promising, French, attackers, attracted to Highbury primarily by the manager. Wenger and his new player, however, said that the similarities ended there.
"Thierry has a good spirit and a good mentality for a young player and he has gained a lot of experience already at international level," Wenger said.
Wenger added that he hoped to develop Henry, who played under him at Monaco at the start of his career, into a central striker first and foremost. "He will be able to play alongside [Nwankwo] Kanu, or [Dennis] Bergkamp or Suker," Wenger said, and added that Henry should be available for selection as early as Saturday, when the Gunners start the new season against Leicester.
Asked if having four world-class strikers to select from would make his job difficult, Wenger replied: "It doesn't cause problems, it only gives you more options." He added that it would have been preferable to have made his forays into the transfer market a month ago, "but we didn't want to spend money we didn't have."
On the subject of Anelka, Wenger said only: "I personally feel that Nicolas is a good guy but he hasn't been helped a lot."
Henry was France's top scorer, with three goals, in his country's triumphant World Cup last summer, but he has recently lost his place in the national side, ironically, to Anelka. The pair remain friends.
"Nicolas lives his life and I live mine," Henry said yesterday when asked if he had had been put off Highbury by what had happened recently. "I have spoken with Nicolas. He did not say anything to influence my decision about whether or not to join the club. I make my own decisions and I feel lucky and happy to join a club like Arsenal."
Like Anelka, Henry has two brothers, but Wenger was probably relieved to discover that neither are agents to their sibling and neither have any plans to move to London.
Elsewhere, two Welsh internationals were heading back to Britain from Benfica. Bradford are hoping to sign striker Dean Saunders from the Portuguese club within the next 48 hours. Saunders has reportedly been unsettled since his pounds 500,000 December move to Portugal. Midfielder Mark Pembridge is expected to sign for Everton this morning, completing an pounds 800,000 move.
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