Laurent Blanc plays down Thierry Henry move to Paris Saint-Germain
Laurent Blanc has played down suggestions Thierry Henry could join Paris Saint-Germain, while Arsene Wenger has added his support to a campaign to give the former Arsenal forward a fitting international send-off.
With his contract with the New York Red Bulls expiring this month, Henry, 37, has announced his intention to leave the MLS franchise. He has, however, left everyone guessing as to his future, suggesting even he may continue playing.
Though he started his career at Monaco, Henry was born in the Paris region, but Blanc, 49, told media he had not even considered his former international teammate could move to the Parc des Princes.
"I'm not thinking about that," said Blanc, who won the 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000 alongside Henry, ahead of his team's league game at Lille on Wednesday. "I'm 20,000 leagues away from that.
"Thierry Henry has had an extraordinary career, at club level and with the national team.
"He decided to stop in the United States but, as for his career, wait a bit before asking that question.
"You never know, he may perhaps still play. I told the last time, I would not be surprised if he still plays for a bit. He loves the game so much, that it would not surprise me."
Earlier this week, France's main sports daily, L'Equipe, started a campaign for Henry to be called up for March's friendly with Brazil, thus giving Les Bleus' all-time leading scorer the opportunity to end his international career on a sweeter note than that of the catastrophic 2010 World Cup, where he picked up the last of his 123 caps.
Arsenal boss Wenger, 65, told British media the striker, who is also the Gunners' record goalscorer after eight highly successful seasons in north London, should be allowed to play one final match for his nation, particularly after the French Football Federation failed to support Henry as he was buffeted by the media storm following his deliberate handball in the build-up to the goal that sent France to the 2010 World Cup at Ireland's expense.
"I think that is the minimum the French Federation can do," Wenger said. "After what happened with Ireland in the qualifiers, the situation was not handled too well by the Federation. I don't think the feeling between Henry and the Federation was good at the time and I think they owe him that."
Henry's close friend, NBA star Tony Parker, told French media earlier this week the striker would end up "either at Arsenal or on TV" with Henry admitting he would like to help his former club win the Champions League.
Parker also revealed Henry had a leaning towards becoming a coach, and Wenger believes his former charge has all the qualities required to be a success in the dugout, though warned Henry of the demands of the job.
"He is an Arsenal man. The best moment, certainly, of his life and of his career has been experienced here," he said. "One day he will come back here. In what role, I don't know. That is what he has to think about -- what direction he wants to give to his next life.
"He has all the qualities [to be a coach] because he is intelligent, committed, he loves the game. He just has to think: 'Do I want to sacrifice all the rest of my life to be involved in that job?' In this job, it's a dedication of your life. You have to realise that there is nothing else. If you look around me, you will not find many people who have worked without interruption for 30 years in this job."
Acknowledged as one of the Premier League's all-time greats, Henry does not enjoy such esteem in his native country, where the Ireland incident and -- above all -- his involvement as part of the 2010 World Cup squad that went on strike and crashed out in the group stages have overshadowed his on-pitch achievements.
"In England, he has a statue, that means a lot," said Emmanuel Petit in an interview with sports.fr, referring to the statue of his former Arsenal and France teammate outside the Emirates Stadium. "What can we reproach Thierry Henry? He handball against Ireland? He helped France qualify for the World Cup. South Africa? He didn't do anything. France is hypocritcal and cowardly. Sometimes, I say to myself that we would be better run today if we had been invaded by the Germans."
Given the implications of his outburst, the former Chelsea midfielder, who also played with Henry at Monaco, later explained his comments to Yahoo Sport.
"Germany has shown us today that it is much better than us, politically, economically and also in sporting terms, and I didn't want to say anything else," he said. "The Germany I love is today's one. Don't make me say things I have never thought. But I will never be able to stop people making lazy assumptions."