Thierry Henry was unveiled as a Barcelona player today amidst much fanfare. Exactly how much fanfare? Well, the man himself was shocked by the number of journalists there, eager to grill him. (By what I'm going to assume was a highly unfortunate coincidence, the press conference was held in the Paris suite, named after the place of Barca's Champions League victory over Arsenal, not to mention Henry's own infamous rant about the Barca players that evening.)
He was greeted by a very enthusiastic 30,000-strong crowd in the Camp Nou itself, who chanted his name as he went through the usual presentation routine. (Marca says 20,000, but all the other sources I've seen say 30,000, so I'm keeping that.)
So all in all, not too bad. Here's some of what he had to say.
On his aims:
"I want to win the Champions League with the club, and with my new teammates."On friends within the team and especially Samuel Eto'o:
""The club have shown a lot of faith in me, and now I want to show them what I can do. That is what I will be trying to do. Hopefully, I will prove to be useful for the club."
"Barça is a club that, at the start of every sesaon, wants to try and win everything. It will be a team effort and I am here to listen and learn. There are people that have been at this club for a long time and I hope that they will show me the way."
"Nobody persuaded me to come here. However, I am friendly with quite a few of the players that are here. I know Samuel Eto'o, Ronaldinho, Lilian Thuram and Ludovic Giuly well and talk to them regularly about all kinds of things.Having begun by speaking of Barca as 'more than a club', as the motto goes, he concluded with a sentence in Catalan ("estic molt content de jugar pel Barça") courtesy of Cesc Fabregas. Very cleverly, he managed to speak the language of the club in both a literal and metaphorical sense, which is always something that will endear a player to the fans.
"Eto'o and I are close. When I was injured he came to see me in London and that gave me a lift and when he was out earlier this year I came over to visit him. I have known him since he was at Mallorca. As much as the media would like us not to be friends, I am sorry to say that we are."
Update: the inimitable Sid Lowe on the presentation.
In related news, Leo Messi, for one, is pleased at the arrival of Henry, despite the increased competition:
'Titi' (Henry) has shown during all these years that he is a great player. Cesc (Fabregas) has always said that 'Titi' is fantastic in training and that he is even better away from the pitch, as a friend and a leader.'And so are Ronaldinho, Xavi, and anyone else who the media could reach for comment while they're on holiday. (Reason that Messi quotes on the subject are so easy to come by: he's not on holiday.) I did see a very sweet quote from Puyol who lamented the fact that he was recovering from an operation and couldn't be there to welcome Henry himself, but I'll be damned if I could remember where it was from with the amount of Henry coverage I've had to read in the last few days.
While the likes of Ronaldinho, Eto'o and Messi are probably not too worried about their place in the team, one of the players set to be most heavily affected by the transfer is probably Eidur Gudjohnsen. He insists that he's going to stay and fight for his place, and I have no reason to doubt that so far. Good for him if that statement holds, but it's hard to see him getting much playing time.
Barcelona have denied that they're after Arsene Wenger to replace Frank Rijkaard. I have a great deal of respect for Wenger, but surely this is not the time for him to be going anywhere. I'd argue it's also not the time for Barca to be changing coaches either. So that works out fine.
Lastly, contrary to what you've been hearing in the press everywhere, Samuel Eto'o is not available for sale. Really. And until the club and the player change their tune publicly, I'm just going to laugh at all those tabloid reports insisting that 25 million euros will do and Arsenal are competing with Milan or whatever other rubbish they've dreamed up.
Phew. Now that's Barca news dealt with, at least before Yaya Toure is presented tomorrow. Next up: Argentina's starting line-up against the United States.