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Wileman: Henry's appetite for winning as strong as ever

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Luke Wileman
4/29/2013 10:05:14 AM
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Thierry Henry turns 36 this summer, but the legendary French goal-scorer isn't thinking about winding down just yet. Success is pretty much all Henry has known during an illustrious career. His list of accomplishments includes winning a World Cup, European Championship, the UEFA Champions League and league titles in three different countries, but in the twilight of his career, his passion to win remains as strong as ever.

"If you watch my games you see it," Henry told me when I met with him ahead of New York Red Bulls' match in Toronto. "I still have the hunger and passion and desire. That will never leave my body. Every time I enter a competition or am playing it can be anything, even card games, I want to win. That is always going to be the case.

"People ask me about how long I will go on for. When that fire in me won't be there any more I guess it will be time to call it a day, but I'm sure you can see that fire is still in me so I am good for now. I am actually not actually thinking about it too much."

Henry's performances for New York are evidence that his outstanding ability continues to be matched by his hunger for the game. He's been named to the MLS All-Star team and Best XI in each of his two full seasons with the Red Bulls, and has a regular season record of 34 goals and 20 assists in 71 matches.

After a decade at Arsenal and three years with Barcelona, Henry moved to North America in June 2010 and has been part of Major League Soccer's growth since then. MLS has an ambitious goal of becoming one of the top leagues in the world by 2022. So in the opinion of someone who has played in those leagues, is that target possible? And what has to change for MLS to get there?

"Everything is possible but it is hard to compete with the main leagues in Europe and also the Champions League," he said. "A team like Barcelona can buy anyone they want if they agree on terms, but here it is difficult because you've got to trade people. If you want to get someone good, you have to give someone who is good.

"If you want to be one of the best leagues in the world, some rules will have to be changed. I understand the way it is in this part of the world with trades and the salary cap but it is way different in Europe. It is going to take time. 2022 is possible, but some stuff will have to change. What do you bring to compete with the Champions League? A European player will tell you he wants to win the Champions League, so how do you attract a guy who hasn't won the Champions League yet or who has the possibility to win it?"

Henry has won trophies everywhere he has played, but since moving to New York in the middle of 2010, he's yet to lift Major League Soccer's biggest prize. The Red Bulls have qualified for the playoffs each season he has been with the club, but haven't been able to reach MLS Cup. Now, under rookie head coach Mike Petke, Henry hopes the club can be a contender this season, but admits everyone is looking up to the defending champions.

"With our name everyone thinks we are going to win it all, but we all find ourselves chasing the Galaxy," he said. "Hopefully we can do something good, we need to get onto a run to be able to claim anything, but you know how it is."

"The two teams last year that went to the final finished fourth or fifth in their respective conferences, so first of all you just have to make sure you make the playoffs and then that you arrive in great shape at the right time. We all know that's not an easy task. LA somehow manages to do it well, Houston also although they lost twice in the final."

Thierry Henry (Photo: Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

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(Photo: Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
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