The damned departed
'I said I was going to be a Gunner for life', said Thierry Henry, and now he's gone. Gone to get his va-va-voom back in Barcelona.
The story of how Thierry Henry, Arsenal’s record goalscorer and star of numerous Renault adverts, jetted off to Barcelona, as it might be told by David Peace in the style of his novel The Damned United.
I’m looking cool. I’m looking sexy. I’ve got that je ne sais quoi.
Cardigan and tie. Jeans and white trainers.
A little bit, how you say, Football Factory. A little bit School Disco.
Hey Bobby, what’s the Catalan for ‘va-va-voom?’
Monday 25 June 2007, Barcelona.
I’m looking hot, hot, hot.
Soon I’ll be taking the medical, signing the contract, shaking Senõr Laporta’s hand, holding up the shirt. The famous red and blue shirt.
Mon Dieu, I’m looking great. I’m going to find my va-va-voom again at Barça.
Barça, Barça, Barça, Barça, Barça!
Messi, Eto’o, Deco, Ronaldinho and now Henry.
At the Camp Nou. My va-va-voom regained.
The greatest stadium in the world. The greatest club in the world. The greatest players in the world. The sexiest football.
And next year we will regain La Liga.
Madrid cabron! Saluda al campeon!
Madrid cabron. Cabron, cabron, cabron!
* * *
‘Barça is more than a club’, I tell the press. ‘The most important thing that has made me come is the way Barça plays, the fans and the support they give. Their style of play is very attractive and has attracted me.’
Attack, attack, attack. Trophies, trophies, trophies.
Just like Arsenal. But with money. Money and trophies. Beautiful football, beautiful trophies.
‘I said I was going to be a Gunner for life and I didn’t lie because once you are a Gunner you will always be a Gunner’, I say. But deep inside I regret not going last year.
After Paris. After the Champions League final.
I should have gone then. A year too late. A year wasted, wasted, wasted, wasted.
* * *
Stade de France, Paris
17 May 2006
Arsenal 1 Barcelona 2
You had the chance to kill off the game but you fluffed it. Bottled it. Fucking French choker.
‘Are you coming to Barça, Thierry?’ Samuel Eto’o asked me after the game.
‘Mais oui’, I replied. But I don’t go. Instead I tease the fans. Tease the media. I love the attention. Bloody love it!
I want to know how much they love me. How much they bloody worship me. Do Arsenal have big ambitions? Do they have the ambition to keep me?
The greatest player to ever wear the red and white jersey. 226 goals in 364 games. A legend. The Messiah.
Tease and tease. Just as Patrick Vieira and I teased them summer after summer. Will we or won’t we? Laporta wants me. He’s wanted me since 2003 but I tease, tease, tease, tease, tease.
And then I decide to stay at Arsenal. Good old Arsenal.
* * *
I stayed because of Monsieur Dein. David Dein, Arsenal vice-chairman.
New stadium. New money. 15,000 executive seats. New investment. Stanley Kroenke. Big ambitions. Big future.
That’s what he promised. Get rid of Peter Hill-Wood.
Buy out the shareholders.
Buy out Danny Fiszman and Lady Nina Bracewell-Smith who own 41% of the shares between them.
Kick out the toffs and bring in the Yanks.
He had a vision, Monsieur Dein. He had ambition. He built Ashburton Grove.
But now Monsieur Dein has gone. Forced out by the board.
‘We sincerely regret that irreconcilable differences between Mr Dein and the rest of the board have necessitated a parting of the ways.’
Fucking backstabbers. Shafted by the directors.
Directors with no direction. No fucking ambition. No fucking guts. No fucking cojones.
I want to pour myself a brandy but I can’t. So I sip a Perrier instead.
No fucking ambition. No va-va-voom.
They wouldn’t build the club around my ambition.
Cunts. The lot of them. Cunts, cunts, cunts.
* * *
Once you are a Gunner you will always be a Gunner.
But not any more. Not Thierry Henry.
Les Gooners. Les Invincibles. Finished, finished, finished.
Pires gone, Vieira gone, Henry gone. The Three Musketeers disbanded.
And Arsene Wenger will go next.
His contract is up in 2008. Without Mr Dein he will not stay. He will leave like Pires and Vieira and Henry.
The dream is over. The French Revolution is dead. Robespierre guillotined.
Thermidor. No more va-va-voom. They can all burn in hell.
And Cesc Fabregas will go too. Back home to Spain. Back to the sun. No more freezing cold English winters.
No more trips to Bolton or Blackburn.
No need to wear gloves in winter.
They laughed at us for wearing gloves. Threw celery at us.
* * *
Arsenal play sexy football. Barça play sexy football but they also have beautiful money.
Chelsea have filthy money and they play dirty football.
Dirty, cheating Chelsea. Dirty, dirty Mourinho.
Winning first. Beauty second. Cheating, fouling, playacting, timewasting.
Conning the referee. Bullying the referee. Dirty, dirty Chelsea.
Their fans threw celery at us.
Dirty Chelsea. Dirty, dirty Chelsea.
Next year, it will be payback time. Beauty’s revenge. Football as it should be played. The Arsenal way. The Barça way. The beautiful way.
On the ground, ball to feet, pass and move, defence into attack.
Attack, attack, attack, attack, attack.
* * *
Once a Gooner, always a Gooner.
But deep down I knew it was time to go.
They loved me. Worshipped me.
226 goals in 364 games. A club record. More than Ian Wright. More than Cliff fucking Bastin.
The greatest player to wear the jersey.
Four times top scorer in the Premiership. PFA player of the year two years running.
But the mood was changing. I heard the whispers. Whispers in the stands. Whispers in the pubs around Finsbury Park. The message board bitching.
I knew what they were saying behind my back.
‘Thinks he’s bigger than the team’, they say.
‘Past his sell-by date.’
‘Lost his va-va-voom.’
‘Time to cash in’, they say. ‘His heart’s not in it any more.’
‘£16million for a 29-year old’, they say. ‘Good bit of business. Bite off Laporta’s fucking arm.’
226 goals in 364 games. Without me they were nothing. Boring, boring Arsenal. George Graham’s Arsenal. George Graham’s dirty Arsenal.
I made Arsenal sexy again. I made Arsenal in my image. Sexy, sexy, sexy.
226 goals and yet they turn on me. Crucify their Messiah.
The fans trust Peter Hill-Wood. They don’t trust new money.
No ambition. No cojones.
The press have turned on me too. English bastards.
The English press used to love me. Used to loved the Gooners.
During our 49-game unbeaten run they adored us.
They purred over our beautiful football. We saved English football.
Three times the football writers’ player of the year.
But now the knives are out. All beauty must die.
‘Don’t like being roughed up’, they say. ‘They want to walk the ball into the net.’
The press have turned on me. The saviour of English football. Crucified me.
‘Goes missing in the big games’, they say.
They turn against sexy football. Reject va-va-voom. Ridicule me for wearing gloves. Pelt me with celery.
Kill the Messiah. Kill, kill, kill, kill.
‘Big game bottler’, they say.
Bottler, bottler. Choker, choker, choker, choker.
What do they know?
Cunts. The lot of them. Cunts, cunts, cunts, cunts!
Disclaimer: The thoughts attributed to Thierry Henry in this article are entirely fictional. There is not a shred of evidence that Thierry Henry swears like a trooper or thinks the English press are cunts. But he is beautiful. Oh yes, very beautiful.
Duleep Allirajah is spiked‘s sports columnist.
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