Thierry Henry

For­mer star takes over at strug­gling Monaco

World Soccer - - Headliners - John Holmes­dale

Monaco and Thierry Henry ap­pear to be a good fit, with the 41-year-old tak­ing his first ma­jor coach­ing job at the club where he burst onto the Ligue 1 scene as a teenage winger un­der Arsene Wenger’s guid­ance.

As­ton Villa had wanted Henry to re­place Steve Bruce, while Bordeaux were also in­ter­ested, but a chance to learn the man­age­rial ropes in front of mod­est crowds at the Stade Louis ll proved com­pelling.

“When the of­fer came it was quite log­i­cal; my heart talked,” says Henry. “You know the con­nec­tion I have with one club in Lon­don, but this is where I started.

“This club will al­ways have a big place in my heart. So to be able to come here and start here again is a dream come true. There’s a lot of work to do, as you can imag­ine, but I’m more than happy to be here.”

Henry re­placed Leonardo Jardim, who was dis­missed af­ter a 2-1 home de­feat by Rennes that left Monaco 18th in the ta­ble. The Por­tuguese guided Monaco to the Ligue 1 ti­tle and Cham­pi­ons League semi-fi­nals last year but was even­tu­ally un­der­mined by the club’s pol­icy of con­stantly sell­ing its best play­ers.

Kylian Mbappe, Ben­jamin Mendy, Tiemoue Bakayoko and Bernardo Silva left last sea­son, while re­place­ments Youre Tiele­mans, Keita Balde and Ter­ence Kon­golo all strug­gled. How­ever, Jardim’s re­mod­elled side still man­aged to fin­ish sec­ond in the league, al­beit 13 points be­hind Paris Saint-Ger­main.

This sum­mer there were fur­ther player de­par­tures, with Thomas Le­mar mov­ing to Atletico Madrid and Fabinho join­ing Liver­pool. Jardim wasn’t helped by a mount­ing in­jury list and it would be harsh

lay the blame at the door of a man who will not be short of suit­ors given his pre­vi­ous suc­cesses.

An amateur player who be­gan coach­ing in his twen­ties and worked his way through the Por­tuguese lower di­vi­sions, Jardim is to­tally dif­fer­ent to Henry, who re­turns to Monaco as a World Cup and Cham­pi­ons League win­ner who is cher­ished at Arse­nal as the club’s all­time record goalscorer.

Hav­ing taken his first ten­ta­tive steps as Roberto Martinez’s as­sis­tant with Bel­gium, Henry’s task now is to re-build and reen­er­gise Monaco. Sig­nif­i­cantly, he has hinted that he will be lean­ing heav­ily on the ideas of Pep Guardi­ola, his coach for three years at Barcelona.

“Pep is the ref­er­ence for me, I’m not say­ing for ev­ery­one,” says Henry. “We learnt how to play the game when I went to Barcelona un­der him.

“With Pep you can talk about the game. He will not even go to sleep and will still talk about the game, you will fall asleep and he’s still talk­ing. The in­ven­tion he had, he’s well ahead of the game

“I saw it closely. You learn from peo­ple; they in­spire you. But you also need to put your own lit­tle mix in it.”

In­evitably, he also name-checked Wenger, who left Monaco a few weeks af­ter Henry’s de­but as a 17-year-old but then res­cued him from a frus­trat­ing spell at Ju­ven­tus and took him to Arse­nal.

Henry con­tin­ues: “Arsene un­locked a lot of stuff in my mind, made me un­der­stand what it was to be a pro­fes­sional, what it was to per­form.

“I will never for­get that. You know the re­la­tion­ship I had with him so I will al­ways carry some of the stuff that he was do­ing.”

The new boss faced a tricky start as he set out to end Monaco’s mis­er­able run and in his first game they lost 2-1 to a strong Stras­bourg side. An er­ror from stand-in keeper Sey­dou Sy led to Stras­bourg’s open­ing goal and Monaco’s fifth straight de­feat was com­pounded by an in­jury to Radamel Fal­cao and the send­ing-off of sub Sa­muel Grand­sir, who lasted just one minute and 51 sec­onds on the pitch. “It wasn’t the dream sce­nario,” lamented Henry af­ter­wards.

Tough fix­tures come thick and fast in Novem­ber and De­cem­ber. There are dates with Club Brugge, Atletico Madrid and Borus­sia Dortmund in the Cham­pi­ons League, while in Ligue 1 there is a visit from Paris Saint-Ger­main and a re­union with for­mer Arse­nal and France team-mate Pa­trick Vieira, who is now in charge of lo­cal ri­vals Nice.

And things could get worse be­fore they get bet­ter for Henry. The in­jury list is long, with Fal­cao join­ing Rony Lopes, Ste­van Jovetic and this sum­mer’s record sign­ing Alek­sandr Golovin, as well as keep­ers Diego Be­naglio and Dani­jel Suba­sic on the side­lines. De­fen­sive so­lid­ity has been hard to achieve thanks to an in­jury to Kevin N’Do­ram and sus­pen­sions clocked up by cen­tre-backs Je­mer­son and An­drea Raggi.

The ab­sen­tees are likely to force him to pro­mote play­ers such as for­ward Moussa Sylla, who re­placed Fal­cao against Stras­bourg. He is just one of the promis­ing young­sters on the books of a club famed for its youth and scout­ing pol­icy, with Mo­roc­can mid­fielder Youssef Ait Ben­nasser, French de­fender Julien Ser­rano, and Span­ish teenagers Jordi Mboula and Robert Navarro also highly thought of.

Henry is old enough to have played with N’Do­ram’s father, Japhet – the Chad striker who set up his first Cham­pi­ons League goal in 1997 – yet still young enough for mem­o­ries of his play­ing days not to have been sul­lied by man­age­rial dis­ap­point­ment.

With plenty of good­will in the bank, Henry’s coach­ing hon­ey­moon is ex­pected to run for at least a few more months, though he will do well to match the record of his pre­de­ces­sor Jardim.

“This is where I started. This club will al­ways have a big place in my heart”

De­jected...Leonardo Jardim af­ter de­feat by Angers

Beaten...Monaco’s Ben­jamin Hen­richs (right) with Adrien Thomas­son of Stras­bourg

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