Henry to continue with Arsenal

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src=' ' class='caption'> Thierry Henry was expected to leave Arsenal if it lost the Champions League final. Arsenal lost, and Henry was energized rather than put off.

Updated: February 25, 2007 11:40 IST
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Thierry Henry was expected to leave Arsenal if it lost the Champions League final. Arsenal lost, and Henry was energized rather than put off. The France striker and club captain agreed to a new four-year contract on Friday with the Gunners, ending months of speculation about a possible move to Spanish champion FC Barcelona. ''My heart told me to stay,'' Henry said. The announcement came two days after Arsenal, down to 10 men after the early ejection of goalkeeper Jens Lehmann, lost 2-1 to Barcelona in the Champions League final - a battling performance which Henry said helped to convince him to stay. ''I said to the boss after the game on Wednesday that one of the most important things was what the team showed me,'' Henry said. ''We can be so proud of what we did. ''The game reassured me of one thing I wanted to know - how far I can go with that team. They showed me they are a team with heart and lots of quality. I know we lost but I think you saw that quality, too.'' The 28-year-old Henry started his career at French club Monaco, most of it working under Arsene Wenger, now manager at Arsenal. Wenger signed him from Juventus in August 1999 - where he had made only 16 appearances - moved him from the wing to up front, and transformed him into one of the best strikers in the English Premier League. Henry helped Arsenal win the Premier League twice - and became the club's record scorer this season. He's scored 214 goals in his Arsenal career - including 164 in 237 league appearances. He was voted the English Football Writers' player of the year this season for a record third time. Henry had one year left on his contract with Arsenal. Now he's set to earn up to 130,000 pounds a week, according to British papers. That would likely make him one of England's two highest-paid players, along with Germany's Michael Ballack, who joined Chelsea on Monday from Bayern Munich. Henry said he was tempted to leave. ''I've never played in Spain and never will,'' he said. ''I played in Italy and France and I can tell you for sure, (England) is the best country to play football. ''This is my last contract. This is where I belong and where my heart is.'' The Gunners had an inconsistent domestic season, clinching fourth place and the final 2006-07 Champions League berth only on the final day. It was the worst league finish for Arsenal since Wenger arrived in September 1996. Even so, Henry scored a league-high 27 goals. Injuries to first-team players forced Wenger to rely on younger players such as Emmanuel Eboue, Abou Diaby, Cesc Fabregas, Robin van Persie, Mathieu Flamini, Philippe Senderos and Jose Antonio Reyes, who were all aged 23 or under. And it's their development which Henry is keen to foster. ''I just wait to see that with a bit more experience, what they can do,'' Henry said. ''Sometimes people say you have to think about yourself first, and I think you can see also on the pitch that I think about the team first. If I do leave also, maybe it will be more difficult for them to shine.'' Wenger said Arsenal's fortunes depended heavily on Henry staying, calling his presence ''basically an insurance for the future of the team.'' ''You cannot say this team will go much higher up without their best player,'' he said. Henry said Arsenal's poor domestic season - and its surprising run to the European Cup final - would only help the team develop. ''When we were not doing well in the league, losing three games in a row and losing all the time away, that's something that I'd never known here before,'' Henry said. ''That's when you learn.'' (AP)

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