The ex-Arsenal and Barcelona star is still bitter he was so heavily criticised for the role he played in France earning a spot at World Cup 2010
Thierry Henry says the reaction to his infamous handball against Republic of Ireland was unfairly hysterical, claiming that when Lionel Messi was involved in a similar incident, he was labelled “a genius”, whereas it was if he had “killed someone”.
The former France international used his hand to control a cross during the second leg of his country’s 2010 World Cup qualification play-off with the Irish in Paris before teeing up William Gallas for a goal that saw Les Bleus book their berth in South Africa courtesy of a 2-1 aggregate win.
Henry was vilified for his perceived dishonesty both by the press and his peers but he pointed out that former Barcelona team-mate Messi did not have his character called into question after scoring with the aid of his hand in a game against Espanyol in 2007.
“You are talking about people I spent so many times on the pitch with,” he told Canal Plus.
“I just said to them, ‘Yes, it was hand, I’m sorry.’ And you know what? They told me: ‘We don’t blame you.’
“I saw Liam Brady, the Arsenal legend, and he asked me: ‘Did you touch it with your hand?’ And I answered, ‘Yes, it was my hand.’ I spoke to the press that night. I could have ignored them but I didn’t.
“I spoke honestly – it was a reflex. A reflex by a competitor, just like when you reach out for the ball on the line when your goalkeeper is beaten.
“When I see Messi scoring against Espanyol, diving to touch the ball with his hand, people say, ‘What a genius, now he is closer than ever to Maradona.’ But when it was me, it was like I had killed someone.”
Henry also dismissed the suggestion that his decision to leave Barca for MLS outfit New York Red Bulls just six months after the handball incident was in any way influenced by the flak he received in his native France for the alleged act of poor sportsmanship.
“I have always wanted to go there [to the United States],” the Arsenal icon added.
“Anyone who knows me would tell you that. Also, to escape what? To escape who? I wanted to go as soon as 2009, but I didn’t because I kept playing with the national team. That is total rubbish.”