Thierry Henry went down in football history as one of the best strikers of his time. But almost everything would have turned out differently.
It’s often the small decisions that have a big impact on the story. It’s no different in football than in other areas of life. A move at the wrong time can have a lasting impact on a career – just as staying where you are can sometimes help a player.
Thierry Henry, for example, is not suspected of having made any serious mistakes in his choice of clubs over the course of his career. The Frenchman won title after title, played well at Arsenal FC and then at FC Barcelona. But everything could have turned out differently if he had had a less fortunate hand in the early years of his career.
It’s November 1998. At the time, 21-year-old Henry was playing a less conspicuous season with AS Monaco, while a few hundred kilometers away in Turin, Italian flagship club Juventus were in shock. Captain Alessandro del Piero tore his cruciate ligament in the league game against Udinese Calcio and the great start to the season and top of the table gradually disappeared into thin air.
In the following five games there were four defeats and one draw, which meant that Juve sporting director Luciano Moggi used the winter transfer window to step up the offensive. Two players were chosen: Juan Esnáider from Espanyol Barcelona and young Henry. But there were other changes at Juve. Coach Marcello Lippi resigned and Carlo Ancelotti took over. And in Ancelotti’s preferred 4-4-2 system, Henry had to play mainly on the wing, which he didn’t really like.
Juventus wanted to trade Thierry Henry and Márcio Amoroso
It wasn’t until April before Henry drew attention to himself for the first time – but then really. Ironically, he scored twice in the win against leaders Lazio Roma. But even this success could not save the season of the Bianconeri, especially since Esnáider proved to be a total mistake and contributed no league goal in the jersey of the old lady.
In the summer of 1999, Moggi had to play again – and again the attack was the focus. Del Piero, it was clear, would be out for a few more months. And they weren’t happy with either Henry or Esnáider. In the spotlight instead: Márcio Amoroso, who had just become top scorer at Udine. For a hefty sum of around €28m plus half of Henry’s transfer rights, Amoroso was supposed to swap Udine’s shirt for Juve’s and Henry join Udine instead. The clubs agreed, but Henry himself refused the move.
“There was an opportunity to go to Juve in a swap with Henry but he turned it down. So I stayed in Udine and then he went to Arsenal,” Amoroso later confirmed Sky sports. At least he stayed with Udine for the time being, because that same summer he finally joined AC Parma – for those 28 million euros. Henry also made the move, joining Arsenal where his former Monaco coach Arsène Wenger worked.
The link between Arsenal and Henry grew into a single success story. The Frenchman became one of the cornerstones of the “Invincibles”, who became unbeaten English champions in 2004. Henry scored 228 goals in eight years with the Gunners before finally fulfilling his Champions League dream with Barca under Pep Guardiola.
And Amoroso? After two years in Parma, he switched to Borussia Dortmund in 2001 and immediately became top scorer. Juventus, meanwhile, spent €17m on Darko Kovacevic, who scored 26 goals for the Bianconeri. The big winner this summer, however, was clearly Henry.