Wenger says Henry will shine and backs Beckham for Prem return
Arsene Wenger has told of the moment he realised Thierry Henry still had the passion to play in the Premier League – and claims that David Beckham could also make a comeback to English football.
The Arsenal boss said he was stunned by Henry’s angry response when he he switched on his TV to watch the New York Red Bulls’ play-off defeat by Beckham’s Los Angeles Galaxy in October.
And as Henry kicks-off an Arsenal loan period of up to eight weeks in tomorrow’s FA Cup clash with Leeds, Wenger is adamant his fellow Frenchman’s passion has not cooled, despite moving to the supposed comfort zone of Major League Soccer.
Wenger said: “I watched Thierry in the first leg of the play-off between New York Red Bulls and LA Galaxy and that’s when I saw that the pride and desire to win is still there.
“He was so angry. I didn’t expect that of him – I thought he would be a bit cooler now.
“That is the moment I thought ‘the fire is still there’ although I didn’t know how he was physically then.
“After that, I had him on the phone a few times during the year and he asked if he could come back here, just to keep fit.
“Watching him against Galaxy demonstrated that champions never lose that hunger. You see it with Becks, too. He still fights to win – and Thierry as well.”
Beckham’s proposed move to Paris St Germain collapsed this week and with the former England skipper set to sign a new deal with Galaxy, Wenger believes he could also strike a short-term loan deal with a Premier League club.
Wenger, who has allowed old Goldenballs to train with Arsenal in recent years, said: “I wouldn’t be surprised if somebody else tried to get Beckham on loan.
“You know they announced Beckham’s signing in Paris? They had booked his flight, decided on a flat and a school for his children – and finally it didn’t happen, I don’t know why.
“But the desire is still there and Beckham could come back here too.”
Wenger admits he could not stand in Henry’s way when Arsenal’s all-time record goalscorer left for Barcelona in 2007 after eight years with the Gunners.
The Emirates chief said: “It was simple: I wanted Thierry to stay and he said ‘you have a young team, they will be good in three or four years but I don’t have time to wait because I am 30 and I have to go somewhere that I have a chance to win.’
“So he went to Barcelona, which was completely logical.
“When Thierry started training with us again it did take me two or three weeks to decide because you have to see what kind of impact he’d have with the team.
“I needed to know how he was physically, because you don’t know how it is in the States.
“I know how high the demands are in the Premier League. They are absolutely exceptional, the highest in the world, and you have to see if he can cope with that.
“When I had him on the phone a few times in the States he had an Achilles problem so I wanted to see how he responded to intense
training again and he did well.
“But I know that the other
players are very happy he is here.
It was more of a case of how he coped physically and whether he wanted it as well – I was quickly convinced that he’d like the challenge.”
Henry’s loan period will include the first leg of Arsenal’s Champions League second-round tie against AC Milan in the San Siro – where the French striker once scored a hat-trick against Inter in the same competition.
Wenger confirmed that Henry, who left Barcelona in 2010, will be in his 25-man Champions League squad, even though he will only be available for that single match.
He said: “He’ll be in the Champions League squad. I’ve loaned Vito Manone to Hull and he was in the squad, so Thierry will take his place.
“He has good memories of the San Siro, against Inter in the 5-1 win.
“It’s logical to include him in the squad.”
Wenger insists he has not considered any future coaching role for Henry at Arsenal.
The Arsenal chief said: “Let him play as long as he can – there is plenty of time to coach.”
He added: “You only have to look at the physical state I am in now to see that!”