As Thierry Henry sits down to discuss his latest football venture in the idyllic setting of Lake Como, he wonders how he got here.
It’s not so much his delayed flight to Milan that makes him think. It’s more of its own journey. From a young boy practicing with a tennis ball in his parents’ sober apartment in the Parisian suburb of Les Ulis to the present day, entering the realm of club ownership.
After a player career that saw him win Premier League trophies, Champions League titles and the World Cup, the 45-year-old is taking his love for the game in a new direction after investing in eagerly ambitious Serie B club Como 1907. which his younger self would never have dared to contemplate.
Thierry Henry was announced as shareholder of Serie B side Como . at the end of August
“You know, I’ll come back to this,” he says Sports post. “I had a tennis ball in my hallway at home, I tried to keep the ball high and make sure it didn’t hit the walls because if it did I would be in trouble.
‘Now, being a shareholder in a team? I mean, you don’t even think about that, especially where I’m from. When I think about the journey – it’s not over yet – this is a new chapter.’
A new chapter brings a new perspective on life, both on and off the field. Henry is fascinated by the project imprinted on Como. The desire to bring the club back to Serie A is there, but it’s not the owner’s sole aim, nor is it what enticed the Frenchman to take the opportunity to invest.
The Djarum Group, which bought the club in 2019, is focused on delivering projects within the local community – including a pledge to ensure that all products and products used and manufactured by the club are locally sourced in the region by 2025 produced. A younger Henry’s priorities may have been reversed, but not now.
Henry admits his outlook has changed since he hung up his boots – his children have played a part in this, as has the recent pandemic.
Gone are the forces that used to drive him – a win at all costs mentality that allowed him to thrive with Arsenal’s Invincibles and win major trophies in a row with France. The same mentality with which he literally took Ireland’s World Cup hopes into his own hands in 2009.
Henry (center), alongside Djarum Group representative Mirwan Suwarso (left), Dennis Wise (second from left) and agent Darren Dein (right) at his unveiling as a Como investor
“As a player, I was there to kill,” he says. “I wasn’t there to entertain, or to think about what was going through your mind. I was there to kill. To win, with my team. That’s about it.
“I’m not here to kill anymore. I’m not playing, it’s over. It’s more about talking, about having connections. About being vulnerable. Making people understand that being vulnerable is okay.
“When you’re young, you don’t hear that being vulnerable is okay, the opposite is true. Especially in the game.
‘Now people are expressing themselves. I thought I knew things about the game, but the new generation is teaching me again what the game is like now.’
Henry has the comfort of being surrounded by familiar faces in Como’s boardroom. Dennis Wise, a former Premier League opponent, is the club’s CEO, while Cesc Fabregas also invested last month when he signed a two-year contract with the club. The club will not comment on the amount wagered by one of the former Arsenal stars. All three have the same agent in Darren Dein, son of former Gunners co-owner David.
It was Fabregas who convinced his former teammate to jump on board with the option. “I know if Cesc is surprised about something – because he forgot to be stupid – it’s because something is going on,” he adds.
The move sees Henry join his former Arsenal team-mate Cesc Fabregas as an investor
As a shareholder there is no day-to-day role in Lombardy, a situation that suits Henry perfectly. With the World Cup fast approaching, he still has his assistant coach role with Belgium juggling, in addition to his expert roles at CBS and Amazon Prime in France.
Because he struggles with stress, he has come to the club to facilitate, not dictate.
“I’m not here to tell people what to do, this isn’t my role,” he says. “If Dennis wants to know, if people want to talk to me, involve me and me in the game, I’m happy to do that. But you must know your place.
“If you’re Gilberto Silva or Dennis Bergkamp. Gilberto will do Gilberto, Dennis will do Dennis. That’s why a team is a team. Stay in your lane. Stay in your zone.
‘I’m a shareholder, that’s my job.’
Another job, but the boy from the banlieues of Paris is still going somewhere.
Henry has other duties, including media work at CBS in the US and Amazon in France