Football: Arsenal stars hail 'inspirational' Henry

Present-day Arsenal stars led the tributes to club great Thierry Henry (above) on Tuesday after the former France striker announced his retirement from professional football. -- PHOTO: AFP
Present-day Arsenal stars led the tributes to club great Thierry Henry (above) on Tuesday after the former France striker announced his retirement from professional football. -- PHOTO: AFP

LONDON (AFP) - Present-day Arsenal stars led the tributes to club great Thierry Henry on Tuesday after the former France striker announced his retirement from professional football.

Welsh midfielder Aaron Ramsey wrote on Twitter: "Congratulations on an outstanding career @ThierryHenry. Top player. Top guy. #Legend."

The club's German playmaker Mesut Ozil tweeted: "Once you enchanted all of us - now I can only say: Thanks for everything! @ThierryHenry #ArsenalLegend."

English winger Theo Walcott, who inherited Henry's number 14 jersey after the Frenchman left the club in 2007, said: "A true inspiration to me in my career. Thank you @ThierryHenry & good luck in your new path."

Henry, 37, became a world and European champion with France and won the Champions League at Barcelona, but it is for his record-breaking exploits with Arsenal that he will be best remembered.

He won two Premier League titles and three FA Cups with the club, set a new Arsenal scoring record of 228 goals, and was honoured with a statue outside the Emirates Stadium in 2011.

Chelsea midfielder Cesc Fabregas, who spent four years playing alongside Henry at Arsenal, posted a picture on Twitter of the pair during a post-match interview.

"Sad to see the end to the career of one of the best players I've ever played with," he wrote. "A true legend @thierryhenry!"

Ian Wright, whose Arsenal scoring record Henry broke, tweeted a photograph of the former Monaco and Juventus player with a simple message saying: "The king."

Arsenal's website published a link to a July 2008 fan poll in which Henry was voted the greatest player in the club's history.

French Football Federation president Noel Le Graet said: "One of the greatest forwards in the history of French and world football bows out following an exceptional career.

"The entire family of French football joins me in congratulating and thanking Thierry Henry for his remarkable career."

'JOY AND ADVENTURE'

Having finished his playing career with the New York Red Bulls, Henry is due to return to London next month to work as an analyst and ambassador for Sky Sports.

Former Manchester United defender Gary Neville, who will work alongside Henry at Sky, said: "We were blessed in this country to see Thierry playing at his peak.

"He's potentially one of the greatest players in the world and even if you supported another team, you couldn't help but enjoy watching him play."

Former England striker Gary Lineker, now a BBC television presenter, wrote on Twitter: "Congratulations to @ThierryHenry on a truly wonderful career. One of the great footballers of our time and a top bloke. Bonne chance."

British television personality Piers Morgan, one of Arsenal's most high-profile fans, tweeted: "Thank you @ThierryHenry for all the goals & trophies - and the sheer, majestic glory of the way you played football. What a career."

Writing in the Daily Telegraph, British football writer Henry Winter said: "He loved playing, dribbling, running, scoring, and his example suffused countless impressionable young fans with an awareness that the game should be about joy and adventure."

Henry's time at Barcelona brought him the Champions League trophy that had eluded him at Arsenal, as well as two league titles, the Copa del Rey, the UEFA Super Cup and the FIFA Club World Cup.

A message on the club's website concluded: "Merci, Henry!" Italian club Juventus, where Henry spent eight months in 1999, tweeted: "A true ambassador of the game. @ThierryHenry, wishing you all the very best in your new adventure!"

Not all of the reaction to Henry's retirement was positive, however, owing to his handball in a World Cup qualifying play-off against the Republic of Ireland in 2009 that helped France qualify at Ireland's expense.

"There are a few greats who spoil that with what they do," former Ireland midfielder Rory Delap told BBC Radio 5 Live. "I'm sure he regrets that. There is still a lot of feeling back home."