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Thierry Henry by Oliver Derbyshire

Release date: 03rd March, 2005
Publisher: John Blake Publishing

List Price: £17.99
Our Price: £12.59
You Save: £5.4 (30%)
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Athletic beauty is a gift conferred on very few souls. There are athletes who are outstanding at what they do, individuals we applaud for their endeavour and undoubted skill, but for whom the job of being a sportsman or woman is clearly hard work.

Then there are those who occupy a completely different aesthetic level, athletes who make the sports fan shift to the edge of his seat in eager anticipation of becoming party to something exceptional. Think Barry John, Tiger Woods, Alberto Juantorena, Muhammad Ali or Nadia Comaneci.

Not since Ryan Giggs was at his peak in an all-conquering Manchester United side six years ago has a footballer managed to be mentioned in the same sentence as such exalted company. Yet today, there is one Premiership star (and for once the description is accurate) who combines skill, athleticism and perhaps most important of all, that indescribable ability to excite the spectator.

You do not need to be an Arsenal fan to appreciate Thierry Henry, a footballer who regularly slaloms through opposition defences with a grace and determination reminiscent of Franz Klammer at his ski-slope best. In his first book, self-confessed Gooner Oliver Derbyshire has diligently detailed Henry's career to date, from his breakthrough at Monaco to Premiership titles and FA Cups at Highbury.

Such was Henry's ability as a child that he was recruited to the French National Football Institute at Clairfontaine at the age of 13; hailing from a modest Parisien background, he seemed destined for success.

Moreover, whereas friends with whom he had grown up in Paris occasionally went off the rails, Thierry Henry had the good fortune to enjoy the early tutelage of two outstanding French coaches, Gerrard Houllier at Clairfontaine and Arsene Wenger at his first professional club, Monaco. Today, it seems ironic that, two weeks after giving Henry his league debut in Monaco's derby match against Nice, Wenger was sacked.

Of course, their respective paths were to cross again within five years, although beforehand, Thierry Henry was working at fulfilling the promise he had shown as a child. Following his debut for the French under 21 side, Le Monde called him 'The attacker of tomorrow', a label which could easily have become a burden to lesser players, but not to Henry. Within two years, he was playing in the World Cup finals.

While player of the year awards and trophies seem to appear in every chapter (further testament to Henry's ability rather than the author's repetitiveness), if there is a gap in this book, it is the period when the French striker was at Juventus. Having made his wish to move from Monaco clear, Henry went to Juve in January 1999 for £12m, yet was transferred to Arsenal in August 1999 for £10.5m. Admittedly, during his time in Italy he was played out of position, but a tantalising reference to "things behind the scenes were not right" may have justified a tad more exploration.

Paired up with Arsene Wenger again at Arsenal, Henry has developed into a world class footballer, one who appears to play with an enviable effortlessness. Details of his deals with Renault, surely scheduled to be extended courtesy of his own va va voom, and his £9m contract with Nike build a picture of commercial success, but lovers of sport should take every opportunity to appreciate Thierry Henry in full flow while they can as it may be a while before his ability to excite sports fans is equalled.

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