Jump directly to the content

News Corp is a network of leading companies in the worlds of diversified media, news, education, and information services.

DREAM TEAM

Your Sun

A News UK Company
TOP
SPLIT LOYALTIES

How Thierry Henry has become France’s ‘enemy’ by plotting their World Cup downfall

Thierry Henry is France's record goalscorer, but against Belgium tonight he'll be hoping they lose for the first time in his life

Tonight, for the first time in Thierry Henry’s life, he’ll be hoping France lose.

St Petersburg is the setting for potentially the most mouthwatering encounter of the World Cup so far as the French and Belgium do battle for a place in Sunday’s showpiece.

And the occasion will be a strange one for Henry.


CLAIM YOUR FREE £20 BET Sun Bets have this brilliant offer when you sign up and bet a fiver


Two balls Thierry

Reuters
7
Two balls Thierry

A legend of the 1998 title winning team that captured the hearts and minds of a nation, Henry is now plotting their downfall 20 years on.

Eyebrows were raised when France’s record goalscorer agreed to join Roberto Martinez’s Belgium backroom staff in 2016.

But Henry’s impact on this bristling Belgium side cannot be denied, helping turn a Golden Generation of dreamers into believers.

Wait that’s not a French flag in the background?

AFP or licensors
7
Wait that’s not a French flag in the background?

The Arsenal legend’s mission? Turn ‘pet project’ Romelu Lukaku into an even meaner goalscoring machine.

According to friends and sources the two are remarkably close, with Henry seeking out Lukaku after Premier League games this season to run the rule over his performance.

The Belgian striker, understandably, is full of appreciation and awe for his mentor.

That’s a lot of goals in one photo

Reuters
7
That’s a lot of goals in one photo

Lukaku told The Players’ Tribune earlier this year: “Since we’ve been working closely together I think I’ve raised my game twice as much than what I thought I could do, and I owe him a lot, a lot in the last two years.

“I’m standing with the legend, in the flesh, and he’s telling me all about how to run into space like he used to do.

“Thierry might be the only guy in the world who watches more football than me.

“We debate everything. We’re sitting around and having debates about German second division football.”

Mentor and friend

Reuters
7
Mentor and friend

Lukaku has been one of the standout performers in Russia, scoring four times in the group stages and wonderfully creating Belgium’s winner against Japan with brilliant spatial awareness.

He was also instrumental from an unorthodox wide position in the quarter-final win over Brazil.

Enough has been written, perhaps lazily, about Lukaku’s pace and power but it has been his movement, particularly against the Brazilians, that has impressed the most.

Light work for Romelu

Getty - Contributor
7
Light work for Romelu

Henry’s tendency to drift wide and arch his runs inside the last defender became his unstoppable signature move of his career and it appears Lukaku is replicating that, albeit from the other flank.

How France cope with the Man United hitman will have a huge baring on the semi-final.

Henry’s involvement with their opponents’, understandably, has received mixed responses from the French camp.

Didier Dechamps, his captain at the 1998 tournament, said: “When you go to a club abroad and play against one from your own country, you are part of the enemy.”

One kiss is all it takes

AFP - Getty
7
One kiss is all it takes

Best of enemies

EPA
7
Best of enemies

“This time, in an international match, it is much higher. He is facing his home nation.

“From the time he became an assistant to Roberto Martinez he did know that can happen. It is a difficult situation – bizarre – it is not easy for him.”

France captain Hugo Lloris also chimed in, saying: “His heart will be split. Before anything, he is French and he left a mark on the history of Les Bleus.”

There remains a huge amount of respect between Henry and Deschamps but tonight, instead of holding the World Cup aloft together, they go head to head to eliminate one another from the final.