HOBOKEN, N.J. – Thierry Henry will enter the final season of his New York Red Bulls contract in 2014, but it might not be his last year with the club.
Despite Henry saying in the past that he would hang up his cleats following the expiration of his current deal, the Red Bulls believe he could stay beyond 2014. Henry would have to sign an extension in order to do so, but New York sporting director Andy Roxburgh believes that’s a possibility, given that the French Designated Player likes the current direction of the club. The Red Bulls won the Supporters’ Shield in 2013 under the guidance of rookie head coach Mike Petke.
“This is the last year of this particular contract, but there’s no reason why he couldn’t extend it,” Roxburgh told reporters during his end-of-the-year roundtable discussion this week. “Right now, I don’t think he’s thinking like that, because when I sat down with him when the season finished, I just asked him straight, ‘So you’re playing next season,’ [and he said] immediately as soon as I asked, ‘Yes.’ He said, ‘I’m very optimistic about the way things are going, and I want to be involved in it.’ That was enough. If he comes away with the same reaction next year, who knows?”
While an argument could be made against filling one of the highly regarded Designated Player slots with an aging and very expensive veteran, the Red Bulls do not seem too concerned with the fact that Henry turns 37 next August. In fact, Roxburgh was full of praise for Henry despite the fact that the Frenchman is coming off his least efficient full season in MLS.
“You never lose the quality,” said Roxburgh. “The quality is just -- he’s from another level altogether -- it’s phenomenal the things that he can do. People talk about his pace and things like that, but he still has explosive power. When you see him some times suddenly change pace and go past people -- you see it in training every day, you see it in the games –- there’s no doubt that he’s fantastic and still got this explosive power about him as well as the ability.
"What you’ve got to do naturally when someone gets to that age, you’ve got to try and manage his situation and make sure that you don’t exhaust him, because someone who is explosive and creative like that, if they become exhausted, then they are no longer creative and explosive. … It’s a matter of protecting him a little bit to make sure that he’s fresh and he’s sharp, but he’s still in very good condition, Titi, and he’s a genius for a football player.”
Franco Panizo covers the New York Red Bulls for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached by e-mail at Franco8813@gmail.com.