HARRISON, New Jersey, (Reuters) – France striker Thierry Henry announced his retirement from international soccer Thursday, bringing an end to a dazzling career that saw him win almost every major trophy and honour in the game.
A World Cup and European championship winner, Henry confirmed his expected retirement from international duty after deciding to quit European club soccer for a fresh start in the United States with Major League Soccer’s New York Red Bulls.
The 32-year-old made 123 appearances for Les Bleus, scoring a record 51 goals. His final match was as a substitute at the World Cup in South Africa last month.
“I had decided to retire, in my head, before the World Cup,” he told a news conference at the Red Bulls’ complex in suburban New York.
“I just didn’t want to announce it before the World Cup.
“This is just another thing for me to do. I am 100 percent committed to the cause here and that’s what I wanted to do.”
Despite agreeing to continue playing at club level for another four and a half seasons, Henry said he never gave any thought to shuttling across the Atlantic Ocean to continue his international career.
“I wanted to be able to come here and be available for the boss,” he said.
“When he wants me to train, I will train. When he wants me to have a day off, I’ll have a day off.
“I couldn’t see myself going back and forth.” Although his career ended in anti-climax with the French team bundled out of last month’s World Cup amid rumours of disharmony between the players and team officials, Henry will be remembered as one of France’s most accomplished strikers who enjoyed success at both club and international level.
A naturally gifted player, Henry was signed by French first division club Monaco as a 13-year-old in 1991 and made his first team debut at the beginning of the 1994/95 season under then-manager Arsene Wenger.
Henry helped Monaco win the French championship in 1997 and was rewarded with his first international cap at the start of the following season.
He played in six of France’s seven games in their 1998 World Cup victory on home soil, scoring three first-round goals, but stayed on the bench for the 3-0 final victory over Brazil.
Henry spent eight seasons with Arsenal, winning two Premier League titles and three FA Cups while scoring more goals than any other player who wore the celebrated Gunners shirt.
Henry also landed a swag of personal awards, having been named the Football Writers’ Player of the Year on three occasions, before leaving Britain in 2007 to join Barcelona, where he enjoyed even more prosperity as he won Spanish, European and World Club titles.
After winning the World Cup in 1998, he added a European championship two years later but endured a lot of disappointment throughout the rest of his international career.
At the 2002 World Cup, France, as defending champions, failed to score a single goal and were eliminated in the opening round. Four years later, in Germany, they lost the final to Italy on penalties.
Henry was at the centre of a bitter controversy when a double-handball was not called for the goal that saw France qualify ahead of Ireland for this year’s World Cup in South Africa.
He almost quit internationals in the wake of the furore but agreed to make himself available for the World Cup, only to be relegated to the bench in what proved to be his final outing for France.
“South Africa did not play a part in my decision,” he said.
“I could have announced it before the World Cup but I didn’t want it (to affect) the team. It was time for me (to retire).”