Arsenal legend Thierry Henry has admitted that the day he knew his playing career was over the day he no longer loved the pain he had been in for “more than ten years”, coming to the realisation doing something as innocent as playing with his daughter at home.
Henry had been one of the best players in the world during the 2000s, scoring 271 goals over a ten-year period from joining Arsenal in 1999 to 2009 and his last full season in Europe with Barcelona.
The Frenchman continued playing until the age of 37 in 2014. But Achilles problems were documented throughout his career, missing the 2005 FA Cup final between Arsenal and Manchester United because of what was described even at that time as a “long-standing” injury.
Speaking on Steven Bartlett’s Diary of a CEO podcast, Henry has detailed his struggles and the moment he decided to call it a day and hang up his boots.
“I suffered from an Achilles problem for more than ten years both sides. I was in pain every morning, really, pain, the pain was never going away all day…both of my Achilles,” he said. “Sometimes, I felt a bit better, sometimes not, but every morning, I was in pain, afternoon, night, for ten years.”
Now 46 and France Under-21 head coach, he described a scene at home with his daughter during his time with New York Red Bulls: “She comes close to me, touches me and goes ‘you’re it’, and she ran. I wanted to run, I couldn’t. I looked at her and said, ‘Hey you won’. I couldn’t chase her.
“That’s when I knew, I couldn’t handle pain anymore. This is what it is. You need to love pain to be an athlete. You need to love pain. If not, stay where you are.”
Although it was pain that prompted his decision to retire, Henry had been playing on with long-term injury problems for years and is satisfied that he walked away on his own terms.
“People stopped because of injuries, some people stopped because of different stuff, I stopped, it was on my terms, I stopped. I knew I could still play, but I stopped,” he said.
When Henry quit playing, he had racked up almost 800 senior club games, 360 club goals, 123 France appearances and 51 goals for Les Bleus – a record at the time.
Having bizarrely been a flop at Juventus after making his name at Monaco, Henry went on to become the greatest player in Arsenal’s storied history, all-time top scorer and winner of four major trophies, four Premier League Golden Boots and two European Golden Shoe awards.
A World Cup and European Championship winner with France, Henry finally got his hands on the Champions League trophy after swapping Arsenal for Barcelona, lifting it as part of the Catalan club’s historic sextuple in 2009. Even after moving to America, he landed the Supporters’ Shield – the trophy handed out to the team that tops the regular season standings – in MLS.
What we know
- Thierry Henry retired from football aged 37 in 2014
- France legend enjoyed success at Monaco, Arsenal & Barcelona
- Career came to an end in New York playing with his daughter.