Team can survive without me, says departing star

UPDATED: 15:43, June 25, 2007

Thierry Henry has told Arsenal fans the club can survive without him.

An emotional Henry addressed supporters through a television interview with Arsenal's website released yesterday - a day after it was confirmed the French striker was ending his eight-year stay with the Gunners and joining FC Barcelona.

Henry, the Premier League club's record goalscorer with 226 goals in 364 matches, said he left Arsenal with "some amazing talent," and tipped strikers Robin van Persie, Emmanuel Adebayor and Nicklas Bendtner to fill the gap.

"Hopefully they will do it," Henry said. "As soon as you know they can do it, they will forget about me, that's the way it is.

"I don't believe what everybody is saying about the club collapsing, having a lack of players and everyone leaving. I think it is untrue."

Henry said he was proud to be part of manager Arsene Wenger's transformation of Arsenal from a defensive-oriented team to an attacking free-flowing style of soccer.

"I would like to think that when people talk about Arsenal, they see the boss (Wenger) has brought the 'Arsenal touch' and the 'Arsenal way', and I'm truly proud of being one of those guys to have helped play the way we have been," Henry said.

"And I am sure it will carry on, because Arsenal was playing like that before me and they will be playing like that after me."

Henry said the April departure of vice chairman David Dein - a key ally of Wenger - had prompted his decision to leave. Wenger's contract ends next season and the Frenchman has not yet committed to stay.

"He said he will see out his contract but you cannot be sure if he is going to go or stay," Henry said. "Hopefully he is going to stay but I need to be certain and reassured of that. Everybody knows I am 30 (in August). The boss being unsettled, Mr. Dein going, it did unsettle me a bit.

"I want to be certain of where the club was going and reassured in a way. I wasn't and I have chosen to go."

Henry said the decision was the most difficult of his life and he only wanted to move to Barcelona because of its style of play.

"I left Arsenal to go to Barcelona because, no disrespect to any other team, but there are only two teams in the world who play football the way I like it," Henry said.

Henry said he struggled with the departure of Patrick Vieira to Juventus in 2005 and, despite the emergence of Cesc Fabregas, said Arsenal never really replaced him. But Henry said he would not regret his move to Barcelona if Wenger stayed with Arsenal.

"I don't regret what I do," Henry said. "Playing for Arsenal was an honor for me. And I will say that until the day I die. When Patrick Vieira left, the team had to move on and we came close to winning the Champions League. But this type of guy we were already missing."

Barcelona beat Arsenal 2-1 in the 2006 final of the Champions League.

"Arsenal will always be in my heart, my blood, my head," Henry said. "I will always have Arsenal in my blood. I know some people will never accept the decision. I just want to say to the fans that I always gave 100 per cent."

Source: China Daily/Agencies

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