What does signing Paul Pogba actually mean for Manchester United?

The summer-long transfer saga regarding Paul Pogba was finally and perhaps unsurprisingly put to rest today as the Frenchman completed his £89 million return to Manchester United. But what does his arrival actually mean for the club? Lewis Addley explores…

In a summer market of crazy transfer fees, Paul Pogba has become the world’s most expensive player at £89 million, how long that fee will remain the highest remains to be seen. Pundits and fans alike have cast their opinion on just about every talking point regarding the 23-year-old Frenchman, from topics such as how Pogba is or isn’t worth the money to whether Manchester United actually need him.

So let’s have a look at what Pogba’s sensational return to United actually means for the club in terms of how Jose Mourinho will be able to get the best out of the highly-rated Frenchman and the impact his arrival could have on their current midfielders.

Where exactly can we expect Pogba to play?

Pogba netted eight goals last season for Juventus in Serie A from a central midfield role and in the modern game he plays a somewhat old-fashioned style. Pogba doesn’t tend to be deployed as an attacking midfielder, despite the fact that he can be a sensational finisher from inside and outside the box. He dictates the play, evident from the fact that his passing statistics are far more impressive than his shooting statistics. Pogba managed an average of 83% passing accuracy compared to 37% shot accuracy in Serie A last season.

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Jose Mourinho is widely expected to play his preferred 4-2-3-1 formation on the opening weekend of the Premier League season. We can expect the new signings to feature from the off, with Zlatan Ibrahimovic set to lead the line. Behind him, Anthony Martial should start on the left, captain Wayne Rooney in behind in his preferred number ten role with Henrikh Mkhitaryan on the right to form a frightening trio of attacking support. With those front four slots occupied, it is clear Pogba is likely to be used in an anchoring role, deep through the centre of the park, most likely alongside Morgan Schneiderlin.

Will midfielders be leaving now Pogba has joined?

As everyone was still waiting for Pogba to be announced, Mourinho made it very clear that he was looking to bring in one more ‘high-quality player’ and have his business done before the opening weekend of the season. With that in mind it doesn’t look like the United boss is looking to offload any other players than those who have already been reported.

Juan Mata’s torrid relationship with Mourinho came into question once again after he was substituted just 27 minutes after coming on in Sunday’s Community Shield final win over Leicester City. Despite Mourinho giving what some may accept as an appropriate reason for Mata being replaced, it has only increased speculation on the Spaniard’s future at the club.

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The future of Bastian Schweinsteiger remains up in the air. It has been made apparent that the German is surplus to requirements and he looks set to be on his way out from the club just one season after joining.

It looks likely that Mourinho has Ander Herrera, Michael Carrick and Marouane Fellaini in his plans, but just how much playing time the three midfielders will amass is unclear.

The remaining midfielders in question will not be expected to challenge for a holding role at the club as they are either wingers or upcoming youth talent. One worth mentioning is Daley Blind, the dutchman can play in the holding role but he has predominantly featured at the back for United.

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There is no doubt the arrival of Pogba will be a boost for the United camp and some of his teammates have already taken to social media to show their excitement of his return. It is clear he has already made a huge impact in terms of talking points but now it is time for him to step up and deliver, to show any doubters that £89 million is a worthwhile fee for his services.

Is Pogba worth £89 million and are United right to have resigned the Frenchman?

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Payet is “100% staying” – Just how much of a boost is that for West Ham?

After following up an incredible debut Premier League season, West Ham United’s Dimitri Payet put in some excellent performances at the European Championships, increasing speculation that he would leave the East London club. Lewis Addley explores how much of boost it is for The Irons that he has reportedly confirmed he will stay beyond the summer…

Dimitri Payet has arguably played the best football of his career since arriving at West Ham United in the summer transfer window of 2015. His performance levels at both Euro 2016 and during the 2015/16 season left many tipping the 29-year-old set-piece king to move to one of Europe’s elite clubs this summer.

However, the Frenchman has now reportedly committed his future to West Ham by saying he cannot wait to lineup in front of the fans in their new stadium.

“I’ve heard about all the interest and I’m flattered,” Payet told The Sun. “But I love West Ham. We had a fantastic season and I can’t wait to play in the Olympic Stadium. I’m 100 per cent staying at West Ham, I love the club. I can tell the Hammers fans that.”

His quotes will come as music to the ears of any West Ham fan as they’d have been worrying about losing their world-class midfielder. But just how much of a boost is it to the club?

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Win percentage:

West Ham won 16 of their 38 Premier League games last season. Payet made 30 appearances and in those games The Hammers won 15 times.

In their eight games without the Frenchman they managed to win just once. So their win percentage is substantially higher with Payet in the team at 50% than without, where they managed just 12.5%.

While West Ham won more games with Payet in the team it is worth mentioning they didn’t actually lose without him, winning once and drawing the other seven. With that in mind it would have been interesting to see just how many of those seven draws could have been wins with Payet’s influence in the final third.

Free-kick king: 

For West Ham and France, Payet has scored 17 goals since the start of the 15/16 Premier League season. Six of those goals have come directly from free-kicks. His ability from a dead-ball situation makes him one of the most deadly in European football and he seems to be able to find the top corner no matter how big the opposition wall is.

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Goals and assists:

In his 30 appearances in the league last season, Payet netted nine goals and racked up 12 assists. He ended the season as West Ham’s joint top goalscorer and their highest scoring midfielder.

Passing: 

Payet’s passing stats from the 15/16 Premier League season were impressive. He managed 1003 successful passes with a pass completion of 81%. He also created 116 chances for his teammates with 104 key passes. As we know, ball retention is so important and the Frenchman is one of the best with the ball in the final third of the pitch.

Attracting summer signings:

Potential signings will want to play alongside the best players in the world. Given how well Payet performed last season and in the Euro’s it would be fair to suggest he has been playing at the very top level.

With Payet committed to the squad, West Ham may have an increased chance of convincing summer transfer targets to join and play alongside one of the best players in Europe in an 80,000-capacity stadium.

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How much of a boost is Payet’s commitment for West Ham? 

Arsenal legend says Pogba “can be one of best in history” – but is he worth £100m?

French midfield star Paul Pogba might be preparing for a huge semifinal clash with Germany tonight, but that hasn’t stopped him from being continuously linked with a world-record transfer away from Juventus this summer.

Former club Manchester United are said to be preparing a £100 million bid for his signature, with Jose Mourinho keen on bringing the 23-year-old star to Old Trafford before the summer transfer window shuts.

Real Madrid are also interested, with the player’s agent, Mino Raiola confirming last month that initial talks had taken place with the Spanish giants.

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Whichever way you look at it, Pogba is in demand. He is wanted by the top clubs around the world and they are seemingly prepared to smash the world-record transfer fee to get him. But is he worth that sort of investment?

Well according to Arsenal legend and fellow Frenchman Thierry Henry, the answer is yes. Henry told Sky Sports that he feels Pogba “can be one of the best midfielders in history”.

“He has the quality to do that, the pundit added. “He needs to make sure he concentrates on what he can do well.

“What I love about him at the moment is that he’s doing what the team’s asking him to do; maybe he’s sometimes a bit more fancy at Juventus but because Griezmann is playing behind Giroud for France, he has to defend a bit more.

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“That’s the sign of his intelligence. He’s playing within himself in a way, to make sure the team has the right balance.”

That balance that Henry mentions has seen France reach the semifinals of the tournament, without really looking like the dominant force many expected them to be this summer.

Yes, they blew away Iceland in that 5-2 quarterfinal demolition last week – with Pogba himself netting his first goal of the tournament in that rout – but aside from that, they’ve struggled to break teams down until very late in games.

Take nothing away from them for getting to where they are now. But as a team France haven’t set the tournament alight. And the same can be said for Pogba.

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The Juventus star ended last season with eight goals and 12 assists in 35 Serie A appearances. However, for France at Euro 2016, Pogba has registered just one goal and has picked up no assists as of yet.

He might be playing a slightly different role under Didier Deschamps, but Pogba has only won 36% of his tackles at the tournament and has committed a total of 11 fouls in five matches – the joint-fourth highest number at the competition.

Table: Pogba's Euro 2016 statistics ahead of semifinal - (Stats via Squawka).

Table: Pogba’s Euro 2016 statistics ahead of semifinal – (Stats via Squawka).

Dimitri Payet has overshadowed him as Les Bleus’ standout performer and while there is no doubting his ability, Pogba is not yet the player that many want him to be.

He is blessed with raw pace, impressive power and more flair than most central midfielders on the planet. However, his overall game as a central midfielder needs polishing still.

He may only be 23 years of age, but if clubs are willing to spend £100 million to secure your services, you need to be a complete package. And it’s unclear whether Pogba is that just yet…

Do you think Paul Pogba is worth £100 million? Will he be one of the best midfielders in history?

Do Manchester United actually need this PSG star?

Manchester United have already been busy in the transfer window and the amount of rumours surrounding players in and out is as high as always. According to reports, Blaise Matuidi is a player on their radar but do United actually need the Paris Saint Germain midfield maestro? Lewis Addley explores

Blaise Matuidi has impressed so far during the European Championship and had yet another consistent season for Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint Germain last term.

The 29-year-old midfielder has been linked with a move away from the French capital and Manchester United appear to be frontrunners the Frenchman.

Jose Mourinho is keen to get his business done early in the window and prepare his squad to challenge on all fronts from the first whistle and there are no doubts about the qualities Matuidi could bring to their midfield.

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In Ligue 1 last season Matuidi had a pass completion of 92%, he won 54 tackles, played 20 key passes, made 46 interceptions and 18 clearances.

Used in a predominately holding role, Matuidi also impressively created 26 chances for teammates, while he registered six assists and scored four goals. With all those stats in mind you could be forgiven for referring to him as the ‘complete’ midfielder.

But do Manchester United actually need Matuidi?

Problems and weaknesses across the pitch were well documented last season for United and they looked vulnerable when opposition teams were counter-attacking. A solid midfield is something football fans have become accustomed to from Mourinho and Matuidi’s stats scream out solidity.

To assess whether United actually need Matuidi we have to look at their current players who could and have played in the same holding role. Three players who are suited to playing in that position in the current United squad are Michael Carrick, Ander Herrera and Daley Blind.

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At this stage of the window it appears only Carrick’s future is secure, with speculation about Herrera and Blind refusing to go away. If all three are in Mourinho’s plans he would have a healthy selection of players to choose from and the possibility of Matuidi as a fourth option would arguably lead to some selection headaches for the United boss.

So let’s have a look to see how the three players mentioned compare to Matuidi… 
(Statistics provided by Squawka).

Last season, Blind bettered Matuidi’s key passes with 24, while Herrera totalled 19 and Carrick managed ten. The PSG midfielder’s 92% pass completion was highest, although the lowest percentage was still impressive, coming from Blind and Herrera with 84%.

Matuidi scored and assisted more than any of the United midfielders, whose combined goals and assists came in at just seven compared to his ten.

Blind made the most successful tackles with 67, interceptions with 80 and clearances with 127, bettering all three of the other players in question.

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Finally Matuidi created the most chances, managing one more than Blind’s 25, while Herrera came in with 21 and Carrick only managing ten.

With these stats in mind it wouldn’t be wrong to suggest Blind is currently the strongest candidate in the United squad in comparison to Matuidi. It would appear United would benefit from signing the Frenchman and there is no doubting his experience and quality, but whether or not they are in desperate need for him is questionable.

Do United need to sign Matuidi or are their current options good enough? Should Mourinho prioritise strengthening his squad elsewhere?

International Friendly Preview and Prediction: England vs France

Competition: International Friendly – England vs. France 

Venue: Wembley Stadium – Tuesday, November 17 – 20:00 GMT (15:00 ET)

Match Odds: England 6/4 – Draw 11/5 – France 15/8

Match Preview

England face Euro 2016 hosts France at Wembley on Tuesday night in a friendly game that will see the two nations stand together following Friday night’s tragic terror attacks in Paris.

Initially it seemed obvious that the game would be cancelled by the French Football Federation but they have decided to let the game go ahead. England and France will use the match to showcase the two nations’ solidarity following Friday’s events.

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England come into the game following their 2-0 defeat to Spain in Alicante on Friday evening. The result saw England lose for the first time since the 2014 World Cup, ending a run of 14 games unbeaten.

With Wayne Rooney and Jamie Vardy out through injury, Harry Kane is the only fit striker available to Roy Hodgson and there are worries the England squad looks too weak just months before the European Championships get underway.

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It will be interesting to see what the side will look like with Dele Alli and Eric Dier both awaiting their first start in an England shirt, and just how ‘experimental’ the starting XI will be on Tuesday evening.

France beat Germany 2-0 on Friday night in Paris as the tragic events in the French capital unfolded. The result of that game will mean little to French supporters but the game against England will go ahead.

However, Didier Deschamps’ side have now won five games in a row and will use the game with England to show solidarity. The European Championships in France are still set to go ahead and so the host nation will want to ensure they are in the best form possible.

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Key Points

England’s last five: W/W/W/W/L

France’s last five: W/W/W/W/W

Key Stat: England haven’t beaten France on home soil since 1992 and have failed to win in any of the last six meetings between the nations.

Key Player: Paul Pogba – Pogba is one of the world’s most complete midfielder and has been sensational since joining Juventus in 2012. It won’t be long until he’s one of, if not the best, players in world football. He’s a superb talent with unfathomable potential.

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Score Prediction

England 1-1 France – We’re hoping this game offers a chance for football to distract itself from the events in Paris on Friday night and hopefully both sides will be looking to get forward and score goals. We think a score draw is most likely.

Former Liverpool striker could follow Gerrard to MLS – report

Former Liverpool striker Djibril Cisse has dropped a major hint that he could be heading to the USA after he said “it would be cool” to play in Major League Soccer, according to ESPN.

The ex-France international is currently playing for Ligue 1 side Bastia, but hasn’t started a league game this season and has made just six appearances overall.

Cisse said in January that it was likely he would be retiring at the conclusion of the 2014/15 season because of an ongoing issue with a hip injury. But now it appears he’s changed his mind and would love a chance to continue playing.

“As long as I can play, enjoy it, contribute my experience, help the youngsters and the older players, I’m happy,” the 33-year old said while speaking to France Football.

“Clubs still think of me. There are a lot of offers from the USA. India too. I have two or three things in Poland and some things which are a little funky, but the USA would be cool.”

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Cisse was part of Liverpool’s 2005 Champions League winning team alongside Steven Gerrard, who is arriving at LA Galaxy to play in MLS in July and despite the hip injury, he is remaining positive and even shows a bit of humour when talking about it.

“I don’t want to have to stop or be told I have to stop because of an injury. It’s up to me to decide. I will continue. I love this too much. I’ll only stop if it breaks completely. It would be beautiful if it went when I was hitting a great volley, wouldn’t it? At least it would go spectacularly,” Cisse told Le Figaro.

“The doctors told me my career was over. The X-rays and the scans weren’t good, but it was up to me to judge what was happening in my body. So, I didn’t give up.”

Should Djibril Cisse emulate Gerrard and make the move to MLS?

Manchester United looking to beat Arsenal and Liverpool to French goal-machine

Manchester United have emerged as candidates for the signing of Ligue 1’s top scorer Alexandre Lacazette, according to LeSport10.

Lacazette has been tipped for a summer move after impressing some of Europe’s top clubs with his performances this season.

The Olympique Lyonnais striker has netted 27 goals in 32 appearances, and according to LeSport10, Manchester United are a possible destination, with Premier League rivals Arsenal and Liverpool also linked.

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At 23, Lacazette would be a long-term investment but United will come up against tough competition to secure his services, with Paris Saint Germain another club reportedly interested and Lyon are hoping not to lose their star man.

United have been linked with numerous attacking options for the upcoming summer transfer market, and having already secured the highly rated Memphis Depay, this could be an early indication of a possible deadly duo.

Transfermarkt.co.uk value Lacazette at around £17.6 million but it is reported that his services could cost any potential buyer in the region of £40 million.

Would Alexandre Lacazette be a good signing for Manchester United?

Aaron Ramsey says fellow Arsenal midfielder has been ‘superb’

Arsenal midfielder Aaron Ramsey has heaped further praise on the performances of defensive midfielder Francis Coquelin this season.

“He’s been really good, he went out on loan and then as soon as he came back he was thrown straight in and he’s done really well,” Ramsey said while talking to Arsenal’s official website.

Francis Coquelin has made an instant impact since breaking into the first-team and only Morgan Schneiderlin of Southampton has made more tackles-per-game than him in the Premier League, which is just one of a whole array of impressive stats that the Frenchman boasts.

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“He’s very aggressive and doesn’t give the opposition much time on the ball and that’s why he wins so many tackles and makes us tick over,” Ramsey added.

“It’s been really good to see his development this year and he’s had a superb couple of months now, so hopefully he can continue that.”

Don’t miss: Is Francis Coquelin as good as Nemanja Matic?

Ramsey’s season has been slightly hampered by injury but he’s still managed to notch four Premier League goals and three assists from just 16 starts.

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The Welsh international believes that having a disciplined player like Coquelin behind him in central midfield is ideal.

“It’s quite comforting knowing that one of the midfielders are behind you in a good position, thinking more defensively.

“It’s something that he does really well and hopefully in the good form that he’s in, he can carry that on.”

Have you been impressed with Francis Coquelin’s performances for Arsenal?

Toronto FC emerging as strong force for 2015 MLS season

Toronto FC are starting to build a formidable line-up and are starting to emerge as a real force to be reckoned with before the 2015 MLS season has even started.

Last week saw Juventus star Sebastian Giovinco agree to join the Canadian side in July, only days after they had secured the services of striker Jozy Altidore from Sunderland.

In the last 24 hours, they have also managed to sign midfielder Benoit Cheyrou. With an attacking spine consisting of Michael Bradley, Cheyrou, Giovinco and Altidore, Toronto look as though they are going to be a real threat in 2015.

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Benoit Cheyrou made 305 appearances for French side Marseille in the last seven years between 2007 and 2014, contributing 28 goals and 32 assists. He also had spells in France with Lille and Auxerre.

Cheyrou’s arrival allows his fellow attacking players to have full freedom of the pitch and as a Ligue 1 title-winner with Marseille in 2010, as well as playing regular Champions League football, his experience will be invaluable to the team.

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Toronto FC General Manager Tim Bezbatchenko said, “Benoit’s vision and his ability to distribute the ball are two very distinct qualities that have made him such a successful player throughout his career both domestically in France and in European competition,” when speaking to the club website.

“He has a wealth of experience and success and is another important piece that complements the ones we currently have in place. We are very excited to bring him to Toronto FC,” he added.

Cheyrou himself has said that he’s “very excited to sign for Toronto FC” and that he “cannot wait to wear the jersey and join my new teammates.”

Will Toronto FC challenge for Supporters’ Shield and MLS Cup glory in 2015?

Thierry Henry retires: The story of his career

Thierry Henry has announced his retirement from football after 20 years of service to the game which saw him play for five clubs, winning 19 titles and an endless list of individual honours along the way.

He said, “it has been an incredible journey and I would like to thank all the fans, team mates and individuals involved with AS Monaco, Juventus, Arsenal FC, FC Barcelona, the New York Red Bulls and of course the French National Team that have made my time in the game so special.”

The 37-year-old confirmed that he will now be working as a pundit for Sky Sports as of 2015.

“It is now time for a different career path and I am pleased to say that I will be returning to London and joining Sky Sports. I will hopefully share some of the insights, observations and experiences I have learnt over the years with you guys.”

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There aren’t enough superlatives to describe a man of such legendary status but hero, icon, genius, idol are just a few words that have been used in an attempt to label the Frenchman.

Monaco and Juventus

Henry’s professional career began at Monaco in 1994, aged 17, where he went on to make 141 club appearances, scored 28 goals and won Ligue 1 and the French Super Cup before leaving for Juventus in January 1999.

The move to Italy was probably the lowest point of his career as he struggled to settle in and was unable to influence the game playing as a left-winger.

Arsenal

Just eight months later, Henry was on the move again and this time it was to be a life-changing moment as he joined Arsenal, but perhaps more importantly at the time, he joined up with his former Monaco manager Arsene Wenger.

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Wenger decided to push Henry up-front as opposed to out wide, and essentially the rest is history.

He notched an incredible 226 goals in 369 appearances for the club and in the meantime became Arsenal’s all-time top goalscorer as Ian Wright’s previous record of 185 was blown out of the water.

As well as numerous Golden Boot awards, he lifted three FA Cup’s and two Premier League titles and was part of the famous ‘Invincibles’ side of the 2003-04 season.

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Barcelona

Desperate for Champions League success that eluded him at Arsenal, Henry made an emotional farewell in 2007 to join Spanish giants Barcelona.

He spent three years in Spain scoring 49 goals in 121 appearances, winning two La Liga titles, one Copa del Rey and his dreams also came true when the Catalan side lifted the Champions League title in 2009. He then went on to also win the UEFA Super Cup and FIFA Club World Cup with Barca.

New York Red Bulls

In 2010, Henry made his move to MLS and joined up with the New York Red Bulls where he spent four seasons and scored 52 goals in 135 appearances in all competitions. He returned to Arsenal for a brief loan spell in the 2011-12 campaign and scored twice for the Gunners taking his overall goals tally at the club to 228.

France national team

As well as the remarkable achievements in club football, Henry was also part of the French national team between 1997 and 2010. He scored 51 international goals in 123 appearances and was a World Cup winner in 1998, a European Championship winner in 2000 and a FIFA Confederations Cup winner in 2003.

He finishes his career having played an overall total of 915 competitive matches for club and country, while scoring a monumental 411 goals.

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Key moments of each year from Henry’s illustrious career:

  • 1994 – Professional debut for Monaco on August 31
  • 1995 – Became first-team regular with Monaco
  • 1996 – French Young Footballer of the Year
  • 1997 – Ligue 1 winner with Monaco
  • 1998 – World Cup winner with France
  • 1999 – Joined Arsenal from Juventus
  • 2000 – European Championship winner with France
  • 2001 – Included in PFA and UEFA Team of the Year
  • 2002 – Premier League and FA Cup winner with Arsenal (PL Golden Boot winner)
  • 2003 – FA Cup winner with Arsenal and FIFA Confederations Cup winner with France
  • 2004 – Premier League ‘Invincibles’ winner with Arsenal (PL Golden Boot winner)
  • 2005 – FA Cup winner with Arsenal (PL Golden Boot winner)
  • 2006 – Champions League finalist and scored last ever goal at Highbury in a 4-2 win vs. Wigan (PL Golden Boot winner)
  • 2007 – Joined Barcelona
  • 2008 – Entered into English Football Hall of Fame
  • 2009 – La Liga, Copa del Rey, Champions League, UEFA Super Cup and FIFA Club World Cup winner with Barcelona
  • 2010 – Joined New York Red Bulls and topped Eastern Conference
  • 2011 – MLS All-Star
  • 2012 – MLS All-Star and returned to Arsenal for loan spell
  • 2013 – MLS Supporters’ Shield winner with New York Red Bulls
  • 2014 – Retired from football and became Sky Sports pundit

In his announcement Henry mentioned how he hoped that we have “enjoyed watching as much as I have enjoyed taking part” and it’s fair to say that we have all enjoyed watching him play and many will continue to reminisce in years to come over some of the incredible goals and special moments in his career.

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He also added that he has “had some amazing memories (mostly good!) and a wonderful experience” – as have we thanks to his elegance on the field.

You rarely come across anyone who has a bad word to say about Thierry Henry and tributes will continue to pour in for a legend who will be sorely missed on the pitch, but he will have a place in history forever in the shape of his statue outside Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium.

Thierry Henry is quite simply, a living legend.