Arsène Wenger believes that Thierry Henry is owed a grand farewell by the French Football Federation after they failed to give him sufficient support when he handballed France’s way past the Republic of Ireland and into the 2010 World Cup.
France are set to host Brazil in a friendly on 26 March next year at the Stade de France, where that incident occurred five years ago, and the Arsenal manager backed an idea suggested in the French sports paper L’Equipe yesterday that his former striker should play in it.
Henry, who announced on Monday that he was leaving New York Red Bulls after four years, has not represented his country since the disastrous 2010 World Cup. While he is likely to retire as a player now, there is a growing campaign in France for the national team’s record goalscorer and second-highest capped player to be given this final farewell.
L’Equipe dedicated their first three pages yesterday to the idea, declaring: “Henry deserves a party.” An editorial said the Brazil friendly would be the perfect occasion to “offer Henry a moment for eternity”, 17 years after his international debut.
Wenger managed Henry before even then, signing him for Monaco and giving him his professional debut in 1994, when he had just turned 17. Having worked with Henry for so long, Wenger supported the plan for the special goodbye, not just because of all of Henry’s achievements but also because of how he was wronged in 2009.
“I think that is the minimum the French federation can do,” Wenger said yesterday. “After what happened with Ireland in the qualifiers, the situation was not handled too well by the federation. I don’t think the feeling between Henry and the federation was good at the time and I think they owe him that. I hope he will get that, and get the honour he deserves.”
Henry’s infamous handball set up William Gallas’s extra-time winner against Ireland in the play-offs to qualify for the 2010 World Cup, and Henry said afterwards that he had not received enough support from the FFF. “The day after the match, and the day after that, I felt alone, really alone,” Henry said. “It was only after I issued my statement that the people from the French Federation got in touch.”
Now Wenger does not believe he will play for a new club as he considers what to do next. “I understand that he wants to reflect for a while on how he wants to go in his life,” said Wenger, who predicted that he would one day return to Arsenal in some capacity.
“He is an Arsenal man,” Wenger said. “The best moment of his life and of his career was experienced here. Certainly one day he will come back. In what role I don’t know, that is what he has to think about, what direction he wants to give.”
Arsenal host Southampton in the Premier League tonight with Wenger hoping that either Nacho Monreal or Kieran Gibbs will return to fitness so he does not have to use Calum Chambers or Hector Bellerin out of position at left-back. Wojciech Szczesny and Theo Walcott are out while Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Laurent Koscielny will both be assessed.
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