Arsene Wenger believes Thierry Henry should be granted the opportunity to draw a line under his glittering playing career with a final appearance for France in a proposed friendly against Brazil.
The 37-year-old quit Les Bleus in the aftermath of his country’s disastrous showing in South Africa in 2010 before embarking on a four-and-a-half year stint in the MLS which came to an end on Monday.
Suggesting that the French Football Federation hung Henry out to dry in 2010, following his involvement in France’s decisive goal in the infamous World Cup play-off against Ireland, Wenger said he agrees with a suggestion in L’Equipe that the governing body owe him a chance to bid farewell to his countrymen.
“I think that is the minimum the French Federation can do,” Wenger told his pre-Southampton press conference.
“After what happened with Ireland in the qualifiers, the situation was not handled too well by the Federation. I don’t think the feeling between Henry and the Federation was good at the time and I think they owe him that.”
Wenger’s words have been backed up by ex-Gunner Emmanuel Petit, who launched a vicious attack on the FFF and the French media for the way they treated Henry.
“In England, they’ve built a statue of Thierry,” he told Sports.fr. “That means a lot. He’s adored there. It bothers me.
“What can we reproach Henry for? His handball against Ireland? He helped France qualify for the World Cup in South Africa. He has done nothing.
“France is hypocritical and cowardly. Sometimes I think that if we’d been overrun by the Germans, we’d be better run.
“He’s not hated but he’s certainly not loved. He got screwed by the French press after his handball and has since not spoken to the French media.
“In France, he has no collusion with the press, so what? Perhaps because he was not smiling when he scored for les Bleus! Well, that’s what I hate in this country.
“I have great difficulty with the French, I have never seen such arrogant, smug, lying and hypocritical people.”
Henry won the World Cup in 1998 and the European Championships in 2000 before helping France to a second World Cup final in 2006 where they lost to Italy on penalties. He was also voted French player of the year five times, taking the gong in four consecutive seasons between 2003-2006.
You can’t help but feel a few minutes on the pitch in the Stade de France is the least he deserves…
UPDATE – Petit’s comments have caused quite the stir in the French media – particularly the German invasion bit – and he’s now claiming his words were twisted.
BONUS READING – fantastic extract in the Guardian from a recent interview with Henry which is set to appear in the upcoming eddition of the Blizzard.