Friday 20 January 2012
"If I was going to name a top-five list of players to have played in the Premier League, Thierry Henry and Paul Scholes would be in there."
- Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand.
If you were to write the history of the Barclays Premier League, the names of Thierry Henry and Paul Scholes would stand among an elite group of players referred to as legends.
English football thought it had seen the last of them when Henry left Arsenal in 2007 and Manchester United's Scholes retired at the end of last season, but both players are back after re-signing on short-term deals.
With the pair poised to do battle again when Arsenal host the champions at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday, we take a look at their illustrious Barclays Premier League careers and find out what the reaction to their comebacks has been.
First joined Arsenal? The Frenchman joined Arsene Wenger’s Highbury revolution for £10.5m from Juventus in August 1999. Primarily used out wide in Italy, Wenger deployed him in a more central role at the Gunners.
Record (first time around): Appearances: 370; Goals: 226.
Honours: Two Barclays Premier League titles, three FA Cups and four Golden Boots. He is also Arsenal's record goalscorer.
What made him so good? In his pomp, Henry was unstoppable. Defenders feared his pace and his deft finishing, while he could turn a game with a flash of brilliance. He was the poster boy for Arsenal’s quick and clinical counter-attacking style championed by Wenger.
What happened after leaving Arsenal? Henry joined Barcelona in the summer of 2007 for £16.1m. After winning the Champions League and two La Liga titles in Spain, he moved to Major League Soccer team New York Red Bulls in 2010.
How come he is back? Rumours of a possible return began to surface when Henry began training with the Gunners to maintain his fitness before the start of the MLS season in March. With Marouane Chamakh and Gervinho on Africa Cup of Nations duty, Wenger needed attacking cover and Henry’s two-month loan deal was confirmed on January 6th.
"He's one of the best players this League has ever seen"
- Aaron Ramsey on Henry
Henry says: "When it comes to Arsenal my heart will always do the talking. I always said I was never going to come back and play in Europe again but, when the team you love and support asks you back, it's kind of hard to say 'no'."
How has the comeback gone? Henry came off the bench against Leeds and gave his side a 1-0 victory at the Emirates when he scored with a trademark opening of the body and curling shot into the far corner.
What has the Arsenal reaction been to his comeback?
Midfielder Jack Wilshere: "Can't wait to get back playing even more now I have the chance to play with a legend like Thierry Henry! Great news for the club!"
Defender Kieran Gibbs: "He has added something to the dressing room, not just on the pitch. We know he can't play every game but his personality has come in and lifted the whole changing room. It is a pleasure to have him in the squad again."
Captain Robin van Persie: "For me, it tells you everything about him; Thierry is coming back because he loves the game. If you asked 10 legends, whether they would come back, I am not sure they would have been brave enough."
Midfielder Aaron Ramsey: "He's one of the best players this League has ever seen, he's got bags of experience and knows how to win things. He's been offering us all a lot of advice and he's just a great person for us to learn off."
Striker Benik Afobe: "Can't wait to be back training and playing with the legend himself Thierry Henry!"
First joined Manchester United? Together with the likes of David Beckham, Ryan Giggs, Nicky Butt, Gary Neville and Phil Neville, Scholes was part of the famous 'Class of '92' squad that came through the club's youth system. He signed professional forms in 1993, making his Barclays Premier League debut against Ipswich in 1994.
Record (first time around): Appearances: 676; Goals: 150.
Honours: Ten Barclays Premier League titles, two Champions Leagues, three FA Cups. Fourth on Manchester United's all-time appearance list.
"The players idolise him. He is a man to look up to"
- Anders Lindegaard on Scholes
What made him so good? Scholes had control, vision, tenacity and technique and was nicknamed 'satnav' by his team-mates because of the accuracy of his passing. He also scored some of the most memorable goals the Barclays Premier League has seen. Zinedine Zidane said Scholes was one of his toughest opponents.
What happened after leaving Manchester United? Scholes announced his retirement last May and had a testimonial against New York Cosmos at Old Trafford in August, with the likes of Eric Cantona and Pele in attendance. He later joined the United coaching team.
How come he is back? Scholes has revealed that he was missing playing for the club, while United were short of cover in midfield with Darren Fletcher and Tom Cleverley out of action. The comeback was a closely-guarded secret with the United players not told he was returning until just before his first match on January 8th.
Scholes says: "I've been pretty clear since I stopped playing that I miss it. I'm looking forward to playing my part in trying to bring more success to this great club."
How has the comeback gone? Made his surprise return as a substitute in the FA Cup tie against Manchester City and then scored on his Barclays Premier League comeback against Bolton, ghosting in at the back post and firing home from the edge of the six-yard box.
What has the Manchester United reaction been to his comeback?
Striker Danny Welbeck: "To see him in the dressing room it just gives you a lift straight away. Everyone knows what Paul Scholes can do. He just dictates the gameplay."
Goalkeeper Anders Lindegaard: "The players idolise him. He is a man to look up to."
Defender Chris Smalling: "Paul is going to be a really positive addition to our squad. I was disappointed when he called it a day last year. I saw first hand the things he could do on the pitch and I know he can still do them."
Full-back Patrice Evra: "Scholesy should never stop. The manager gave a gift to us because it looked like he never stopped. I am so happy. We need a player like that if we want to win the League."
Man Utd legend Sir Bobby Charlton: "It is one of the best pieces of news I have ever had. He is a sensational footballer and we are very lucky to have him."