Thierry Henry was awesome.
I've been watching clips and gifs of some of his goals with the New York Red Bulls for the past hour or so, and the memories are rushing back of where I was when he scored that goal, or when he did that celebration.
The French star announced on Facebook on Monday that he would not be returning to the Red Bulls next season. The door is technically open on him coming back to MLS with another club, I suppose, but the tea leaves look like he'll be moving back to Europe to do...something.
I was trying to think of a parallel American athlete to Henry, not because I feel like every player needs an analog in other sports, but because I was trying to think of his legacy in Major League Soccer. I settled on former NBA star Charles Barkley.
It's not a perfect parallel, since Henry was very, very successful on the club front with Monaco, Arsenal and Barcelona before coming to the Red Bulls, while the rap on Barkley was that he could never win an NBA title. Henry, of course, fell at the final hurdle in MLS as well, never even making it to MLS Cup, but he did end up bringing the first major silverware to his club with the 2013 Supporters' Shield, a monumental achievement for a club that appeared to be cursed from nearly the beginning. Though both won "world titles" with their countries (World Cup for Henry, two Olympic gold medals for Barkley).
But still. Both Henry and Barkley are engaging, intelligent athletes who refused to follow the stale soundbyte script most did (and do). They pulled in their fair share of critics and #HotTakes, but largely had the license to speak freely, act aloof when they wanted to, show their tempers, because their talent was awesome. And I mean that in the larger-than-us sense of that word.
It's going to be a bummer not seeing Henry cruise around MLS fields anymore (if that's indeed the case), knocking in brilliant goals, grabbing games singlehandedly and turning them in New York's favor, taunting his own team's fans if he thought they deserved it for not supporting the players, yelling at teammates on the field but never throwing them to the wolves via reporters after games, telling us he's "not having a go."
Thierry Henry was awesome. MLS is simply not going to be as good without him, even if a few more marquee names are signed for next season. But at least we'll have the memories.
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