HANOVER, N.J. – The rare stateside appearance by Arsenal. Gerard Houllier’s postgame comments. The relative silence with regards to the 2015 season. The standing ovation at the MLS All-Star Game.
The stars certainly look like they're aligning for a Thierry Henry curtain call, but don't expect to hear anything too soon about the French star's plans past this season.
Henry’s future has been up in the air for weeks now due to his and the New York Red Bulls’ unwillingness to say much about where they stand in terms of a potential extension. The soon-to-be 37-year-old’s current deal expires at season’s end, and he has not yet publicly stated whether he will return to the MLS club he has been with since summer 2010 or hang up his cleats.
The topic was broached again at Red Bulls’ practice on Friday following his return from the All-Star Game in Portland, with both Henry and sporting director Andy Roxburgh discussing the subject of a potential retirement.
“Some of my friends are telling me that I still look fit. I don’t feel fit after games, though, but it is what it is,” said Henry when asked if seeing Landon Donovan retire at 32 has made him think about life after the game. “You have to respect anyone’s decision. I said to you, as long as I can run, I will keep on playing. Sometimes it’s not only down to your body, it’s also what’s happening up there in your head.
"We’ll see. I still feel fresh, somehow, after a lot of games in my career. But I’m okay still so far.”
Roxburgh, ever the astute linguist, initially sidestepped the inevitable question about the recent comments made by Houllier, Red Bull's head of global football, stating that Henry was likely to retire at season’s end. But when pressed on the matter, Roxburgh admitted that he had a good idea as to what the French forward will do – even if the Red Bulls are in no immediate hurry to force Henry to make a decision.
“There’s no rush in that sense,” said Roxburgh. “This is now poetic and I even said it to him and he was embarrassed, I said, ‘Titi, you’ve been to this club what the Chrysler Building has been to the skyline of New York.’ That to me sums him up because he’s made the difference. He’s a fantastic football player and he doesn’t feel any urgency to come out and make some statements.
“I don’t feel any urgency, but we’re both grown up enough to understand that it wouldn’t be wise to be sitting here in December and say, ‘Maybe we should talk.’ We’re talking all the time. I’ve got a good idea of the way it's going, he’s got a good idea as well, but we won’t come out and publicly declare anything just yet.”
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Roxburgh also said that there are currently no contract negotiations with Henry but that New York will know before the end of the season. Henry, however, has publicly stated a number of times that he will wait until the campaign is over to make up his mind.
In the case that the star striker does decide to walk away from the game or even if he just leaves club this winter, Roxburgh has a plan in place to help make up for the loss, even if it would be nearly impossible to find a suitable stand-in for Henry.
“We wouldn’t be scrambling anyway because we were always monitoring and looking to see what’s going on and who’s possible, etc.,” said Roxburgh. “It will be extremely difficult to replace Thierry Henry. LA couldn’t replace [David] Beckham.
"Same thing, for the MLS and for New York Red Bulls because I just gave the description and I love the Chrysler Building.”
Franco Panizo covers the New York Red Bulls for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached by e-mail at Franco8813@gmail.com.