Thierry Henry's magic at Real Madrid in 2006 an example of his greatness
It was a cold night in February 2006. I'd travelled from Barcelona to the Spanish capital to watch the Gunners play giants Real Madrid, and I was thankful for the heaters built into the stadium roof that warmed us as we stood watching the match.
The 2003-04 "Invincibles" were in the process of being broken up, the FA Cup final win in May 2005 was a success but unconvincing in terms of performance [an awful game won over Man Utd on penalties], and Arsene Wenger was trying to change the profile of his team with young players like Cesc Fabregas, Philippe Senderos, Jose Antonio Reyes, Abou Diaby, Theo Walcott and more.
One man remained the figurehead of the side though: Thierry Henry. He was the master, the leading goal-scorer, still the best player, and a man, despite ongoing injury issues, capable of powering the team through difficult games. He'd had help in previous incarnations -- with the likes of Patrick Vieira, a seemingly ever-lasting Dennis Bergkamp, and Robert Pires his partners in crime -- but none of his usual foils were with him that night (although Pires would come on later as a substitute.)
Clubs and goals: Total - 411 goals in 917 games
Monaco (28), Juventus (3), Arsenal (228), Barcelona (49), New York Red Bulls (52)
Internationals: France - 51 goals in 123 games
Trophies: Ligue 1 (1); Trophee des champions (1); Premier League (2); FA Cup (3); FA Community Shield (2); Spanish La Liga (2); Copa del Rey (1); Supercopa de España (1); UEFA Champions League (1); UEFA Super Cup (1); FIFA Club World Cup (1); MLS Supporters' Shield (1); MLS Eastern Conference (2); World Cup 1998; Euro 2000; Confederations Cup 2003.
Just after half-time, Henry picked up a pass near the halfway line from Fabregas. He brushed off a challenge from Ronaldo [Brazilian, not Portuguese], easily side-stepped a clumsy effort from Alvaro Mejia Perez and turned on the afterburners to sprint, ball always under control, away from Guti. Sergio Ramos came charging across as he entered the penalty area but it was too little, too late, as the Frenchman took another touch with his right foot to move the ball out of his reach before finishing with unerring accuracy into the far corner with his left.
Iker Casillas was left grasping at thin air as the ball flew past him and Henry ran around the back of the goal to celebrate in front of the Arsenal fans, who were jumping around madly in the top tier of the Bernabeu. There are moments you remember in your years of watching football that stick with you, and that was one. It remains as clear and vivid now as it did on the night.
Yet the thing about Henry was you didn't even have to be present for those moments to leave an indelible mark. You could rattle off a couple of dozen without even thinking. That outstanding goal in the 5-1 win against Inter Milan in the San Siro in 2003 when he left the incredible Javier Zanetti for dead twice before rifling home in emphatic style; running the length of the pitch against Spurs; the brilliant touch, lift and volley against Manchester United in 2000; and, of course, that hat trick against Liverpool which rescued Arsenal's invincible season in 2004 as it teetered on the brink of collapse that warm Highbury day.
Everyone's got their own memories and, with the announcement of his retirement from football and a new career in the media, today seems like a good day to relive them.
His spells at Monaco, Juventus, Barcelona and New York Red Bulls are part and parcel of his CV, but there's no doubt he'll be best remembered for what he did in the red and white of Arsenal. His 228 goals remaining the benchmark that others can only aspire to achieve.
Henry was the sports car who could do 100 miles to the gallon. A remarkable athlete, a great goal-scorer, a relentless creator with 106 assists on top of all those goals, a showman and an aesthete -- somebody who made often impossible things look simple.
Football's loss is television's gain, but those of who lived through Henry at Arsenal, and indeed throughout his career, should be in no doubt that they were fortunate enough to witness one of the greatest strikers the game has ever seen.
Andrew Mangan is one of ESPN FC's Arsenal bloggers. You can follow him on Twitter: @arseblog.