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Thierry "Handball" Henry, hype or hope?

KNYSNA, SOUTH AFRICA - JUNE 21:  Thierry Henry runs at a France training session during the FIFA 2010 World Cup at Pezula Field of Dreams on June 21, 2010 in Knysna, South Africa.  (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)
KNYSNA, SOUTH AFRICA - JUNE 21: Thierry Henry runs at a France training session during the FIFA 2010 World Cup at Pezula Field of Dreams on June 21, 2010 in Knysna, South Africa. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)
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So it is clear that MLS has found a new foreign exchange student to drool over, witness their 8 tweets in two hours about him this morning for proof, and considering the success off the field of the last one and failure on the field it is little wonder that there is a good deal of hype going on.  The harsh reality is the situation is that until Henry produces on the pitch, it is all hype and hope.  I loved how Once A Metro put it:

I'll give the bad news first, so we can end on a good note. The reality is this, Thierry Henry had the worst year of his career and was relegated to the bench in Barcelona and was not a starter for the French National Team at this past World Cup. Many international players come into the MLS at the tail end of their careers expecting an easy final couple of years for one last big paycheck. People are expecting the Henry that played for Arsenal but you could get the Henry who when given playing time on the field at the World Cup and proved completely ineffective. If he doesn't come out like JPA and play the full 90 to the best of his ability, he won't prove to be a difference maker.

If you compare what the last big name did on the pitch, well it will be hard for Thierry to not exceed that performance, Beckham played just 41 regular season matches since joining the league in 2007, he only scored 7 goals and had 16 assists.  He is without a doubt the worst performer for the dollars spent in MLS, and perhaps soccer history, but that is only part of the story, and the on field performance of Thierry will only be part of his story.

more after the jump:

 

Off the field, David Beckham sold season tickets for the LA Galaxy, and every where he was scheduled to play teams saw ticket sales spike.  He got MLS talked about on normal TV, he got the non soccer fans in the US talking about the sport, sold a bunch of jerseys and of course he sold a lot of books for Grant Wahl.  Did AEG's investment pay off?  You will have to ask them, but I don't believe it has.

So like with any player coming into MLS, is he willing to do what it takes to succeed here, very few players can get away with not playing a full 90 minutes of both offense and defense in this league, you can't get by unless you are fit, and not Landin fit, but actually able to move and run for the full 90 minutes?  

I expect good things from him, but I don't believe that he will be the best thing since sliced bread, New York is a solid team, they have improved on both offense and defense this year, and he should be able to help them to be even better.  He has the skill and talent to be a difference maker in MLS, after a World Cup where he and his entire team showed a lack of heart, will he be focused enough to meet some very lofty expectations?

Off the pitch is where Thierry will be stretched, he doesn't have the molded and polished image of Beck's, he isn't a celebrity of that level.  That might actually be to his benefit, New York tends to eat sports figures for lunch, the fans and the media are brutal.  Ask Manning, Farve, Rodriquez, or any of the others who have come only to get battered and bruised beyond recognition.  I think Thierry will need a very thick skin to survive, he will be brutalized by fans around the league for "the Handball of God II"


Only time will tell the long term success or failure of Thierry Henry on and off the pitch, for the good of the league I hope he does better on the pitch than did the last such high profile player to join the league.

OFF MY SOAPBOX