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A Blast From The Past: Revisiting The Triumvirate (Thierry Henry, Samuel Eto’o & Lionel Messi)

In the 2008/2009 campaign - and the calendar year 2009 in particular - FC Barcelona set the new benchmark for club football. Even though the whole squad deserves the credit, the contribution of Barca’s attack must be highlighted.

While most teams are glad to have one 20-plus goal striker within their ranks, the Blaugrana had three; the least-scoring forward being Thierry Henry with 26 (!) goals to his name.

Titi’s resurgence to form in the 2008/2009 season wasn’t expected. A lot of pundits had already written him off after his transfer from Arsenal to Barcelona. Even his last season at the Emirates was considered to be a failure.

In an injury-plagued season, he still managed to score a respectable 16 goals in all competitions. Still, he didn’t deliver the 30-plus goals season the Gooners had grown accustomed to.

Now, a lot of things can be said or associated with Arsene Wenger – being a novice in the transfer market isn’t one of them. Credit where credit is due, Le Professor must be one of the shrewdest participants in the transfer market. Wenger is hardly, if ever, outsmarted when it comes to transfer dealings.

Thus, when he sanctioned Henry’s departure from London, many believed it was because Titi was past his prime and it would be the last opportunity to cash-in on him. It has happened to Patrick Vieira and Wenger’s assessment in Vieira’s case was spot on.

Fantastic Four?

While his debut season with FC Barcelona wasn’t exactly a success, neither collectively or individually, Henry still managed to finish as the team’s top scorer (with 19 goals). When he arrived in Catalunya, he set a new audience record for the presentation of a newly acquired Barca player, so high were the expectations for him.

The addition of Thierry Henry has led the press to dub the Barca attack "The Fantastic Four" (referring to the popular Marvel comic team of the same name). But just like the live-action version of the Marvel comic – there were huge expectations, a lot of promise and much disappointment over the final product.

How is it possible to ruin a movie that has Jessica Alba wearing a skin-tight cat suit for the majority of the time? C’mon, she didn’t get the role because of her talent, she’s not even a natural blonde. Still, someone decided to give her the part and add some substance to her character; Jessica Alba playing a scientist, now that’s a stretch!

Ronaldinho, Henry, Eto’o AND Lionel Messi; it had to be too good to be true. In the end the fearsome foursome (almost) never started a match alongside each other.

The Fantastic Four, both the movie and Barca’s own interpretation of the Galactico(s) were never meant to be.

Some things belong in the realm of fantasy and imagination. Besides all good things come in threes; the three Kings, the holy trinity, a three-peat, the treble and the amount of clothing Jessica Alba is allowed to wear in any given movie at any given time. Into the Blue is a classic, the advertising for FF alone was more expensive than ITB.

And then there were three

However, when Pep Guardiola took over the reins of FC Barcelona he made it a priority of losing dead weight. Former key-players like Deco or Ronaldinho (who became quite chubby at the end of his Barcelona-stay; talk about dead weight!) were shown the door.

The Fantastic Four shrank to become the eventual triumvirate of Henry, Eto’o and Messi. Under Guardiola they formed the (arguably) finest attack in the history of club football. In between them they have scored an absurd 100 goals in all competitions; Henry (26), Eto’o (36), Messi (38).

In comparison, then-Manchester United player and highest goal-scorer, Cristiano Ronaldo scored 26 goals in his very least season at the club.

In the glorious 2008/2009 campaign, some of Europe’s finest clubs were torn apart and ripped into pieces by the attacking trident of Henry, Eto’o and Messi. Bayern Munich, one of Europe’s most storied clubs, were not only outclassed but completely destroyed.

Bayern icon, and former Barca manager, Udo Lattek was reportedly left in tears after the Blaugrana humiliated the German giant. The legendary Franz Beckenbauer has told the press he was ashamed of Bayern’s performance and Jürgen Klinsmann presumably lost his job that very night.

Of course, there is the 2-6 drubbing of Real Madrid in the Santiago Bernabeu, but not each of the three forwards got on the score sheet that night. Unfortunately Samuel Eto’o didn’t; while Thierry Henry (who was quite simply amazing) and Lionel Messi bagged a brace each. However, Eto’o played an integral part in the defeat of the Merengues and provided the assist for Gerard Pique’s goal.

It may have only lasted for one (perfect) season but I highly doubt that there will be a strike force as potent and lethal as Henry, Eto’o & Messi. Not only did they score goals, they did it in style and never neglected their defensive duties. In the treble season they have committed more fouls and accumulated more cards than the entire defense combined.

For whatever reason, Ronaldo is considered a Barca legend, at least according to the official FC Barcelona website. He had one, albeit brilliant, season with FC Barcelona. If Ronaldo is legend, Thierry Henry must be considered a Barca legend too. He helped accomplish Barca the greatest feat in club football, achieving the sextuple.

But because Barca tends to have a rather schizophrenic relationship with its players, it doesn’t come as a surprise that neither, Henry or Eto’o are with the club anymore.

Anyway, the fact remains that the both of them will forever be linked to FC Barcelona. Henry might be the King of Highbury but he has also been part of the greatest attacking trident in the history of club football, namely Barca’s attack. For this reason alone he must be considered a genuine Barca legend!

However, if our new trident (Pedro, Villa, Messi) can become as prolific as the aforementioned three, bright and glorious days lie ahead.

Visca el Barca!

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