The Ballon d’Or was cancelled in 2020 due to the pandemic but it returns this year and I thought it worth talking about the greatest player to never win it – Thierry Henry.
A Ballon d’Or finalist twice, what is seen by many as the most prestigious individual footballing honour was never awarded to Thierry Henry despite, undeniably, being the best player in the world at the time he was snubbed.
In 2015, they even had Henry present the award to Cristiano Ronaldo as he won his third.
Fighting off competition from runners up four-time winner Lionel Messi and German goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, the accolade is designed to reward the best male footballer in the world for their work over the season.
With the likes of Johan Cruyff (1971, 1973, 1974), The Original Ronaldo (1997, 2002) and Michel Platini (1983, 1984, 1985) among the previous winners, it’s clear that only the best, most dedicated footballers have a chance of winning… in theory.
With this in mind, it’s actually somewhat of a mystery that our very own Thierry Henry, didn’t win the gold ball during his time at Arsenal.
Thierry Henry – top Scorer in England
Henry made the top three in 2006, but came third. That year, he lost out to Real Madrid centre back Fabio Cannavaro, and even came behind Juventus goalkeeper, Gianluigi Buffon, despite being the top goal scorer in England and second in Europe.
Wenger spoke about his surprise at Henry missing out, considering his contribution not just to Arsenal’s game, but the Premier League in general.
“Congratulations to Cannavaro if that’s the case but for me there’s only one candidate this year and that’s Thierry Henry,” Wenger said before the award was official.
“He just deserves it. He was the top goalscorer in England, the best player in England, the second-highest goalscorer in Europe behind Luca Toni. He played in the Champions League final and he played in the World Cup final. He lost one on penalties and he lost the other in the last few minutes with 10 men.
Henry’s most successful season in terms of goals came during the season of the Invincibles (2003/04), in which he scored 30 goals in the league alone – the highest tally in his footballing career.
When compared with stats from the Ballon d’Or winner from that year, you’d be forgiven for feeling a little hard done by. The 2004 winner was Milan striker Andriy Shevchenko and, while he did help his team win the 2002/03 European cup by netting four goals in 11 appearances, this was sub-par when compared to Henry’s seven goals in 12 European appearances the same year.
Henry was also behind Deco and Ronaldinho, coming fourth.
The next season, both scored similarly in Europe. However, Henry’s league goal tally surpassed Shevchenko’s.
Henry came second in 2003 to Pavel Nedved but, in 2001, when Michael Owen won it, Henry was ninth.
In between those years in 2002, he placed sixth when the original Ronaldo won it.
Thierry Henry – Class on the pitch
Another part of Henry’s game, which makes his lack of Ballon d’Or shocking, was his style. His impact on the game as a whole. His swagger. Everything about his game was majestic and – without sounding too dramatic – magical to watch.
Arsenal fans are often accused by other fans of brown-nosing the Frenchman, but in the case of Thierry Henry, I feel we might be fully justified.
When you speak to countless footballers today, many point to Henry as their inspiration and idol as a youngster and there is a reason he was the second player to be inducted in to the Premier League Hall of Fame.
Pundits still applaud him and show clips of his silky skills as he glides past defenders. Pacey forwards can’t escape the comparison, inevitably have thrust upon by commentators, especially if they are in an Arsenal shirt.
Henry was a footballer whose ability was exceptional and timeless; it’s only a shame that the powers that be didn’t acknowledge that fact.