Thierry Henry: A breathtaking player who lit up every game he played in

Thierry Henry celebrating scoring for Arsenal against Liverpool at Highbury in 2004. -- PHOTO: ACTION IMAGES
Thierry Henry celebrating scoring for Arsenal against Liverpool at Highbury in 2004. -- PHOTO: ACTION IMAGES

The King has retired, but Thierry Henry's place among football's greatest marksmen is secure. From rasping volleys to dipping drives to glancing headers, the 37-year-old Frenchman did it all.

At his peak, he made defenders look like wide-eyed admirers. Even on his off day, he had enough suave and speed to beat three opponents, stare down a goalkeeper, and calmly slot the ball into the net.

We look back at his 18-year professional career, which had its fair share of ups and downs, including his disdain for playing on the left wing at times for club and country. We also pick out his top five goals - no mean feat, considering he has struck 284 times at the senior level.

1. Oct 1, 2000: Arsenal 1-0 Manchester United

Voted the second-best goal in Arsenal's history, this was Henry at his outrageous best. Receiving the ball from Gilles Grimandi with his back to goal just outside the box, the striker did not bother to look at the net or his teammates. Nonchalantly flicking the ball up, he swivelled and unleashed an instinctive drive over a perplexed Fabien Barthez and into the top corner. Wow.

2. July 20, 2005: SC Weiz 0-5 Arsenal

Even pre-season friendlies were worth a watch when Henry was involved. Philippe Senderos lofts the ball to his gifted No. 14. One deft touch on his knee, one flick of the ball over his own head and that of the defender, one inch-perfect lob past a fully-stretched goalkeeper. One breathtaking goal.

3. April 9, 2004: Arsenal 4-2 Liverpool

All Henry needed was a yard of space inside the Liverpool half. Cue a burst past one defender, a shimmy around another, before an only-he-can-make-it-look-simple slot past Jerzy Dudek. If there was a goal that encapsulated the Gunners' "Invincibles" season, this was it. A player a class apart in tearing defences apart.

4. Oct 4, 2008: Barcelona 6-1 Atletico Madrid

Tiki-taka at its finest: Xavi flicks to Bojan Krkic, who lays off to Henry, who arrows a controlled drive into the bottom left-hand corner of the net. In a matter of seconds, a goal is created which will live on for the ages. Precise football, precise finish.

5. Nov 16, 2002: Arsenal 3-0 Tottenham Hotspur

Run more than 80 yards - with the ball at full speed - against your fiercest rivals and make them look like bewildered fools? Henry can check that off his bucket list, thanks to this exquisite drive-and-finish that had even the most ardent Spurs fan nodding in admiration.

Career milestones:

- Joins French first division club Monaco as a 13-year-old in 1991, making his debut at the beginning of the 1994-95 season, under then-manager Arsene Wenger.

- Voted French Young Player of the Year a season later and signs pre-contract with Real Madrid. However, as the Spanish giants made the approach through an agent not registered with Fifa, the player and Real are fined and the deal is annulled.

- Scores nine goals in 36 matches to guide Monaco to the French championship in 1997 and earns his first France international cap at the beginning of the following season.

- Plays in six of France's seven games in their 1998 World Cup victory on home soil, staying on the bench for the 3-0 final victory over Brazil. Scores three goals in the first round.

- Moves to Italian side Juventus in January 1999, where he starts just 12 games before joining English Premier League club Arsenal only eight months later for 10.5 million pounds.

- Henry scores three goals as France win Euro 2000.

- During his eight seasons at Arsenal, the club wins two Premier League titles, three FA Cups and he scores more than 200 goals. Henry is also awarded a host of personal awards, including the Football Writers' Player of the Year accolade on three occasions.

- Left England in 2007 to join Barcelona, enjoying even more success as he won Spanish, Champions League (2009) and World Club titles.

- Heavily criticised for a handball that helped France to beat Ireland and qualify for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

- Already France's leading striker in internationals with 51 goals, he was selected for his fourth World Cup in South Africa but was left out of the starting side and his only appearances were as a substitute as France were eliminated in the first round.

- A few days after the World Cup ended, he announced he was quitting Europe to seek a fresh start in the United States' Major League Soccer (MLS) with the New Yok Red Bulls.

- Went back to Arsenal for a loan spell during the MLS off-season in 2012 before returning to New York, having scored a career total of 228 goals from 377 games with the Gunners, 175 of them in the Premier League.

- Wins two Eastern Conference titles and a MLS Supporters' Shield with the Red Bulls.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.