Thierry Henry, arguably the Premier League’s ultimate goal machine, is on the brink of returning to the club that made him a legend.
Just weeks after Arsenal unvieled a statue of the Frenchman in typical goal-celebration-knee-slide pose speculation is reaching fever pith that Henry will be returning to the club on loan from New York Red Bulls for 2 months during the MLS close season (he’s even been pictured in the latest Arsenal kit…).
But do second spells often bring many happy returns?
YES – Mark Hughes, Manchester United, 1980-86, 1988-95
Although it is not exactly a modern day example, Mark Hughes and Manchester United set the standard when it comes to a successful homecoming.
After breaking into the United first team as a youngster, Hughes did well, winning the 1985 FA Cup, but the Heysel disaster meant English clubs were banned from Europe, so joined many Englishmen in playing in Europe. Hughes found himself at Barcelona playing poorly, then at Bayern Munich a year later (where he went on to play for Wales and Bayern in the same day).
When Fergie brought him back to Old Trafford he became slightly magnetic, collecting 2 Premier League titles, 2 more FA Cups, the League Cup, the Cup Winner’s Cup (against his old club Barca) and the UEFA Super Cup. Quite a happy return you’ll agree.
(If you’re after a more direct comparison of a short-term loan return doing well, take a look at Jurgen Klinsmann’s return to Spurs on loan from Sampdoria. He bagged 9 goals in 15 games)
But on the other hand…
NO – Andriy Shevchenko, AC Milan, 2000-2006, 2008-09
Shevchenko was Mr Milan at the start of this century. He could do nothing wrong, firing the Rossoneri to the Champions League final and being beating a ‘in-his-prime’ Ronaldinho to the Balon d’Or.
Then Chelsea flexed their financial muscle and paid around €44m for the 30-year-old. It was downhill from there.
He famously flopped at Chelsea, being seen as chairman Ambramovich’s prized pet and a possible reason for Jose Mourinho getting the chop. After a measley return of 9 goals in 48 league games he was shipped back to Milan on loan for the 2008-09 season. It wasn’t the homecoming everyone expected, as Shevchenko failed to find the familiar San Siro net in his 18 Serie A games.
So while those at the Emirates Stadium may celebrate Henry’s potential return, his homecoming is not guaranteed to be a happy one.