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Henry impact can be bigger than Beckham's

Columnist Rob Hughes writes that Thierry Henry move to MLS stands a far better chance of stimulating soccer in the United States than the David Beckham acquisition. The French striker is more gifted than  Beckham, has more to give on the field and is less celebrity conscious. He is coming to challenge himself as a player rather than to boost his, his wife's or his agents' celebrity earnings.

He turns 33 in August, roughly the same age as Pelé and Franz Beckenbauer and Carlos Alberto when they came to the Cosmos in the 1970s. Their motives, a new and lucrative challenge in the twilight of great careers, were similar to his, and it is right and reasonable to compare Henry to those stars more than the many who have passed through American soccer since.

Henry has been a World Cup winner, a European champion, a top scorer and an exceptional performer. He has starred for France, Arsenal and Barcelona. His countryman William Gallas, an opponent with Chelsea, once said: “You have to watch Henry like you watch milk on a stove. Look away for a split second and you're in trouble.”

During eight years at Arsenal, including an unbeaten season, he scored more goals, and had more assists, than any Arsenal player — 226 goals and 92 assists in 369 matches. Writes Hughes, "There were exquisite strikes with either foot. There were maneuvers that seemed uncanny and almost balletic in movement and balance. There were standing ovations in the great stadiums, like Milan’s San Siro, when he scored with such nonchalance, such class, against Inter Milan, the home team."

Read the whole story at New York Times »

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