Thierry Henry interview - November 2008
Thierry Henry had been in England less than a month when he paid his first visit to Anfield in August 1999.
A stunning goal from Robbie Fowler helped Liverpool to a 2-0 win on the day, but it was the performance of another Scouser that caught the eye of Arsenal's new striker. One born in Huyton, not Toxteth.
As Dermot Gallagher blew the final whistle and both sides sloped down the tunnel, Henry tapped teammate Partick Vieira on the shoulder and asked, "Who was that kid in midfield?"
"Steven Gerrard," replied his countryman. "He's going to be a brilliant player."
Over the next few years Henry and Gerrard would learn a lot more about one another as each set about writing his name in Premier League history.
It wasn't long before a mutual respect prompted an exchange of phone numbers, and from there a friendship blossomed.
Before Henry left Arsenal for the Nou Camp, there were even rumours that Gerrard tried to woo him to Merseyside.
Here the French ace reveals all about that conversation and assesses how history will judge his mate...
You played against Steven so many times. Is there an occasion that stands out?
There are so many. Whenever you play Liverpool you know you have to get him out of the game. If not, it's all over for you. He's a midfielder and if you look at all the important goals he's scored - well I can't even think of a striker in the world who has scored as many important goals, never mind a midfielder. How many times has he done it in the dying seconds of a game? I am trying to think of a striker now who does it - there aren't any. Think about it.
Tell us about your friendship. How close did you become?
Yes, really close. I played against Liverpool and Stevie G so many times, and when you appreciate a player so much and see them at every game, you talk. I always told him how much I admired him and he said the same to me. We exchanged numbers and kept in touch from there.
And do you still speak these days now you're at Barcelona?
We haven't spoken for a little while. I think the last time was at the beginning of the season. I'll text him and he'll reply very quickly.
Is it right the pair of you talked about you coming to Liverpool when you were leaving Arsenal?
Well, it was mentioned but it would have been difficult for me to go to another Premier League club after Arsenal. We talked about it but nothing was in it, really. It was just us talking about our wishes.
Maybe you could come back to the Premier League one day...
No, I really don't think so. In life you can never say never, right; but right now I really don't think so.
How much would you have liked to have played with him?
Oh, so much, so much. That's normal - I would have liked to have played with some others too, but he is an inspiration. He reminds me of Patrick Vieira in that he doesn't talk too much. He just does what he does. He inspires Liverpool without talking. I find it a disgrace that he didn't win European Football of the Year in 2005 after Istanbul. For me, he is one of the best ever.
How do they compare - Steven and Patrick?
They are different types of player. Patrick was a holding midfielder who also had the ability to go and score goals. Stevie G is someone who plays with the ball. He goes to put his name on the scoresheet every game. It is difficult to compare the two: it's like comparing Paul Scholes and Roy Keane. They are both great players but they don't do the same thing on the pitch.
Where does Steven rank in world football in your opinion?
For me, and I have always said this, he will be regarded as one of the greatest midfielders ever when he finishes his career. No doubt. Okay, he doesn't do the showboating thing. That doesn't matter. The guy is always putting his foot in, always scoring and doing what he has to do to make his team win. That is what football is all about. He is the guy who makes Liverpool spark.
What, for you, is his biggest attribute on the pitch?
Ah, where do you begin? Maybe I would say that when he needs to put his foot in, he does it. Look at Istanbul. He needed to go play at right-back and so he did it. And he did it well. He will put his head on the line and go to places other players won't. I don't know of a single word that describes Stevie G. Even if he is not playing at his best, you know you can count on him.
You don't get many players who play for their hometown club for 10 years, do you?
Well, it happens more in England than in other countries. There is a thing in England where people want to play for their hometown team and be the local hero - be like the people they used to look up to. But it is amazing what Stevie has done and is doing. It's not like he has relaxed for all this time. He has been everywhere for 10 years: putting his foot in, scoring goals, passing and being committed to his club. No one can ever doubt his commitment to Liverpool. He, for me, is Liverpool.