Thierry Henry endured a sour time as Monaco head coach. Now at the Montreal Impact, his Monaco past need not define his coaching future.
The Montreal Impact took a risk with Thierry Henry. An unquestionably inspirational character, the Frenchman is one of the greatest footballers in the history of the sport. He also has playing experience of Major League Soccer when he played for the New York Red Bulls, during which he was one of the best players in the league.
But Henry’s exploits as a player have little significance for how he will cope on the sidelines. History tells us a very plain and powerful lesson: greatness on the pitch does not beget greatness in the dugout, and Henry himself has struggled to translate his playing success to his coaching career.
The former centre-forward has been a coach for some time. He conducted his badges during the latter years of his playing days and then continued his schooling under Roberto Martinez for the Belgian national team, attending the 2018 World Cup as an assistant coach.
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His first and only senior management role before the switch to the Montreal Impact came at Monaco, the club at which he broke onto the scene as a player. It was a disastrous affair.
He was sacked after just three months and 20 matches. He had just two wins in 12 league games, was reprimanded for verbally abusing a Strasbourg player, and had arguments with the media during the most testing periods late on. From start to finish, he failed, and Monaco very swiftly returned to the very manager that Henry replaced in the first place, Leonardo Jardim.
However, despite the obvious problems in Monaco, Henry still has some defenders. Former Monaco midfielder, Marcos Lopes, spoke about the Frenchman’s tenure with The Athletic this week. He feels Henry got a bad hand:
"“I think people don’t really know what happened with Thierry. In my opinion, the club did not give him enough time. The training sessions were really good and the ideas were bright, engaging and good. When he had the players back fit, and the team starting to be how he wanted, the club sacked him. I did not agree with that. If they had given him more time, he could have been a fantastic coach for Monaco.”"
Entirely making excuses for Henry is to miss his problematic approach to the job. He was not solely to blame, of course, but he also should not be entirely absolved of blame. Nevertheless, that a former player who worked closely with Henry feels that the now Montreal Impact head coach brings ‘bright, engaging and good’ ideas, conducted ‘really good’ training sessions, and ‘could have been a fantastic coach’ is significant.
Henry might not have enjoyed the success that he wanted to in Monaco, or that many expected of him before he arrived, but that failure does not have to define his future coaching career, starting in Montreal, where the initial signs have been very positive.
In the CONCACAF Champions League, Henry formed a structured, stable, disciplined defence. In MLS, he led Montreal to within seconds of two wins from two matches. Given that he lost Igancio Piatti just weeks before the start of the season and rushed new DP signing Victor Wanyama into the fray, Henry has dealt with the frictions of taking on the management role at a club in transition well.
His time at Monaco, then, might be classed as a failure. And it will always leave a black mark on his managerial record. But Henry is determined to right those wrongs, and there is no reason why he cannot.