Henry: 'India should improve like Iceland, Costa Rica'

"Iceland and Costa Rica are proof that hard work pays. You need to start early and not at an age when you are becoming professional," said football legend Thierry Henry in his first visit to India.

Thierry Henry

Nita Ambani with legendary French footballer Thierry Henry during the Mumbai City FC-Atletico de Kolkata ISL match in Kolkata.   -  PTI

French legend Thierry Henry may have hung his boots but the competitive spirit that made him one of the finest forwards in football still resides within.

Henry, 39, who now works as the second assistant coach to the Belgium national team. He was instrumental in Arsenal winning 49 consecutive matches under Arsene Wenger in 2003-04 season, which included a Premier League title. The feat had earned the Gunners the sobriquet of 'Invincibles'.

Asked whether any side could emulate that feat, Henry, who addressed reporters at a promotional event here, said, “It is possible to repeat Invincibles’ feat of winning the League by remaining unbeaten. But we did it first.”

Later, the star footballer, who was greeted by hundreds of fans chanting his name and queuing up to get his autograph on T-shirts and posters, attended an Indian Super League (ISL) match between Atletico de Kolkata and Mumbai City FC at the Rabindra Sarobar Stadium here.

On the upcoming Ballon d’Or this year, Henry considered Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Antoinne Griezmann and Gareth Bale as the top contenders for the honour.

Speaking on the dominance of Messi and Ronaldo in claiming the top award, Henry said, “Those guys are just abnormal. I’ve never seen players like them before and I am sure you’ve never seen before. They score what 50 goals, 60 goals, 90 goals a season. It is irrelevant asking if defenders before would have stopped them and not fair on defenders of their time. We will never know that.”

Henry favoured his former Barcelona team mate Messi though. “I have played with Leo, so you know how I would feel if he wins. It is difficult to see anyone coming between him and Ronaldo,”

Henry said football had evolved in the last few years. “In my time, strikers were fed by wingers and now strikers feed wingers and they score.”

On his first visit to India, Henry prescribed the country should follow Iceland, this year's Euro quarterfinalist, and Costa Rica to make improvements. “Iceland and Costa Rica are proof that hard work pays. You need to start early and not at an age when you are becoming professional,” he said.

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