“Going out on top.”
It’s a narrative that follows any legendary player inching closer and closer to the end of a career. The notion bleeds into all sports. Derek Jeter will hear it as the countdown to his Yankee career begins. Brett Favre left his beloved Green Bay Packers in search of one final day in the sun. Even Wayne Gretzky made a move to the New York Rangers in hopes of a final, fairytale run at the Stanley Cup.
By all means, Thierry Henry falls into the legends category. The Frenchman has been a champion at the highest level with club and country and tasted victory in nearly every phase of his career, under a variety of different circumstances.
Will he follow the path of pursuit so many other greats have followed? Probably not.
“I don’t agree with the ‘finishing on a high note’ kind of thing,” he explains. “If you can finish on a high note, so be it. Like I said, it would mean the world to me if we could win it, but afterwards, I would be able to look at my career and obviously, if I can add a trophy, it would be more than amazing – trust me. But I think a player can go and relax if he put some trophies overall in his career.”
Entering the final year of his contract, Henry can already say that he has left his mark with the Red Bulls, leading them to the first major trophy in club history with the Supporters’ Shield. Still, that MLS Cup continues to escape his grasp, and as far as this league is concerned — that is the highest honor.
“It would mean the world to me [to win MLS Cup], and even more so for the fans that have been waiting for a long time here,” he acknowledges, “but like I said to you — that is where people get it wrong. When you finish a career, you have to analyze your career.”
Henry looks towards examples in his own experiences where legendary players fell short of a trophy, yet are still honored for their collective accomplishments.
“When people say ‘oh he didn’t finish …’ no, no, no. We all know some people that were in some situations where they could have won it, like [Paolo] Maldini didn’t win the Euro against us in Italy,” he says.
“That’s my point. A career is a career, it won’t change anything.
“Now, do I want to win it?” he says with a smile. “Yes, I want to win it.”
But Henry is quite clear — he won’t be defined by it.