NEW YORK – After weeks of speculation, it’s finally official. Thierry Henry will return to Arsenal on loan through the middle of February.
Both Arsenal and the New York Red Bulls confirmed on Friday that Henry will embark on a short-term loan stint at the club where he cemented his name as one of soccer’s all-time greats. The Red Bulls Designated Player and captain has been training with the Gunners this offseason and will be available for selection beginning with Monday’s FA Cup tie at home against Leeds United.
Henry, who is Arsenal’s all-time leading scorer with 226 goals across all competitions and recently had a statue in his likeness erected outside Emirates Stadium, said the opportunity to return to north London – even for a brief period – was simply too much to resist.
“It is unreal, to be honest,” he said in a statement. “But when it comes to Arsenal my heart will always do the talking. Once I knew the plan behind it I was OK with it. I am not coming here to be a hero or prove anything. I am just coming here to help.”
With Marouane Chamakh (Morocco) and Gervinho (Ivory Coast) set to participate in the African Cup of Nations, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger was in need of forward depth and looked to a familiar face in the 32-year-old Henry to provide that behind the red-hot Robin van Persie.
That doesn’t mean, however, that the New York striker will be leaned on too heavily at his former club. Henry said he was coming to be a part of the squad and expected, more often than not, to appear as a substitute.
Although he had dismissed the possibility of Henry being loaned out earlier this winter, Red Bulls GM and sporting director Erik Solér said, in the end, the deal made sense for all sides.
“We believe that this is a beneficial move for all parties involved,” Solér said in a statement. “From our perspective, we believe that Thierry will have the prime opportunity to develop his match fitness playing with Arsenal in preparation for our MLS regular-season campaign.”
Though Henry will miss parts of the Red Bulls’ preseason under the parameters of the loan, he will return well ahead of the club's season opener at FC Dallas on March 11.
In a message to New York fans, he voiced high hopes for the 2012 MLS season and said hadn’t planned on returning to Europe, but simply couldn’t turn down the opportunity once it materialized.
"I always said I would not play in Europe again,” Henry said. “But it is hard for me when it comes to Arsenal. I am not coming here for the whole season, I will be back and I want to win the MLS Cup with the Red Bulls. I hope it is win-win situation where I can help Arsenal and come back fit for the MLS season."