Red Bulls’ Thierry Henry “Not Thinking About Next Year” despite expiring contract

IMAGE, MATT KREMKAU, EMPIRE OF SOCCER

IMAGE, MATT KREMKAU, EMPIRE OF SOCCER

BY NICK CHAVEZ
Staff Writer

For some New York Red Bulls fans, it’s hard to think of a time before Thierry Henry, but what could life be without him?

Entering the fifth and final year of his contract, the talismanic Frenchman faces a decision come year’s end; hang up the boots or continue his American adventure. Henry was asked about his future during the Red Bulls first media availability of 2014.

Asked if the ante of expectations and pressure might be raised for his final year, Henry calmly responds, “That’s always the way it is, there’s no pressure – or there is pressure or there’s not pressure, however you want to see it.” The French legend quickly dispelled whether he has given his future in New York any thought, stating, “I’m not thinking about it might or it might not be my last year, or whatever it is. It’s a year that’s coming, and we want to perform as a team and try to make sure that we go further this year.”

The question is a fair one. While his fitness and production are still quite impressive, Henry has been very visible in media during his time in England this winter, particularly as a color analyst for English Premier League matches — a clear sign of what the future may hold for one of the BPL’s most celebrated strikers.

Meanwhile, the Red Bulls are coming off a record season, winning the Supporter’s Shield — their first tangible piece of hardware in club history — and exceeding expectations. As any team in the league can attest to, defending any sort of championship is a tough task. If Henry and the rest of the Red Bulls don’t win the Supporter’s Shield or MLS Cup, would that prompt him to stay one more year?

“I’m not thinking about next year, I’m thinking about this year,” he said.

Throughout the history of the Red Bulls/Metrostars, large turnover in the roster has been a defining characteristic of their off-seasons. This year, the core of the team remains intact. Petke has kept the key elements from the Supporter’s Shield winning side and Henry recognizes that roster continuity pays dividends in Major League Soccer.

“Teams that are consistent in the league throughout the years are teams that are together,” he notes. “Eighty percent (of the team) is kind of the same team. For one of the first times that I’m here, I know the guys in the dressing room.”

Henry is vital to the returning core of this Red Bulls squad. If he manages to stay healthy, New York can be considered contenders for MLS Cup, setting up a perfect stage to bow out of Major League Soccer as a champion. Fairytale ending or not, the striker’s future remains very much up in the air.