"No, number one is not Alan Shearer - number one is Thierry Henry. Thierry Henry is the best player to have ever played in the Premier League so when I see this debate, that is not even a debate. Thierry Henry is the best striker to ever play in the Premier League and it is not even a debate."
Sky Sports’ Monday Night Football pundit Jamie Carragher was bullish when he caught up with The Sportsman. For him, there simply is no debate when it comes to the greatest Premier League forward of all time. Henry captured the imagination of the British public like nobody else. Match of the Day became a must-watch event just to see what the incredible French forward had been up to that day.
And everybody knew who he was. Arriving on these shores in 1999 as part of Arsene Wenger’s masterplan to revolutionise English football, he changed the game in the Premier League. We’d seen an enigmatic Frenchman before - Eric Cantona held that title for the majority of the decade - but Henry was something else entirely.
When the quality of top-flight football was increasing year on year, Henry showed us things we simply hadn’t seen before. His grace on the ball felt incredibly flamboyant in an era in which foreign signings still caused a whole lot of intrigue in English football, while his selection of goals are among the best we have witnessed.
His flick and volley with his back to goal against Manchester United was simply superb, the backheel against Charlton brought to his face a smile that lit up Highbury, and his solo goal against Tottenham Hotspur at Highbury was unforgettable. There are 175 Premier League goals to fawn over and every single touch of the ball was worth watching.
His pace was frightening, his ability to find that inside left channel unstoppable, and he was the man who took Arsenal up a level. They may have won the Premier League before he arrived but Henry made the Gunners Invincible. The partnership that he struck up with the irrepressible Dennis Bergkamp was just joyous to watch, with the Dutchman talented enough to be on the same wavelength as the man who would win three Premier League Golden Boots.
French teammate Robert Pires also had a knack to work telepathically with Henry... the majority of the time. The penalty debacle against Manchester City still remains one of the funniest footballing moments, as two of the most talented players the top flight has ever seen made an unholy cock-up.
That invincible team goes down as one of the greatest, and Henry was the shining light. No defender was too tough for him - he made a mockery of Real Madrid in the Bernabeu, but it truly was the way he played the game that made him such a cultural icon. The ‘Va Va Voom’ advert made him a household name outside of football, while his greatness on the pitch is pretty much undisputed.
In April 2020, The Mirror pitted the Premier League’s 32 best players together in a knockout-style tournament, allowing fans to vote for whomever they thought was best in each round until we had an ultimate winner. That winner was unsurprisingly Henry, who beat Manchester United’s Ryan Giggs in the final with a massive 81% of the vote.
The best the Premier League has ever seen, and, as Carragher said, “It is not even a debate.”