Thierry Henry has slammed criticism of Barcelona forward Lionel Messi after the Argentine’s effort and desire were questioned due to a widely circulated clip of him walking around against Dynamo Kyiv.
The veteran playmaker had netted from the penalty spot early on to set up a 2-1 victory in the Champions League clash, though he was mocked for failing to close down a Dynamo defender in stoppage-time as Barca clung onto their narrow lead.
But Henry has passionately defended his former teammate, saying he was guilty of doing the same thing when he was a player, and feels people are underappreciating how demanding the past year has been for players – and particularly Messi.
Speaking on CBS Sports podcast Que Golazo, Henry said: ‘When I see people still having a go at Messi for whatever reason, I laugh. I laugh because people forget that last month he went to play in Ecuador and then he went to play in Bolivia.
‘Nobody is putting that in the bracket, that he had to take a 12-hour plane and you can’t even walk in Bolivia! Players coming from Europe, you’ll pass out. And then he travelled and he played again.
‘And yeah maybe in one game he’s tired, and so what? We’re talking about a guy that scored more goals than he played games. People forget that we’re not machines.
‘In the Clasico, five or six times he went to tackle someone by the corner flag, but that doesn’t make the news – that’s when I just don’t get it. We’re still talking about that.
‘If you want to find some stuff, there is one guy you have to leave alone. Leave him alone. Because when he is not going to be on the field, we’re all going to cry. I understand that you need to sell stuff and you need to make stories, but not this guy. Seriously. I played with Leo, this is not the guy you need to attack.
‘This is what I don’t understand – and he gets his credit, don’t get me wrong – but sometimes picking on the guy just for the sake of picking on the guy. What he has done for football, what he has done for Barcelona, it’s second to none.
‘So I don’t understand when people question his desire. This is what bothers me. Sometimes guys pushed the ball by me and I walked! It wasn’t because of desire, sometimes I was tired, sometimes I just couldn’t do it, my brain wasn’t following me, it can happen or not happen.
‘But how can you question the desire of Leo Messi? Really!? It’s just, for me, ludicrous. When I hear that I’m like, “What? Are we questioning his desire?!” You can be bad, yes he can do better – well, I don’t even know if he can do more than he does – but questioning his desire? Please. Leo Messi is just an animal. Assists, passes, forget about it, we can stay all day.
‘It’s pretty simple for me: just enjoy the guy while he’s there and stop complaining about stuff that he doesn’t do. It doesn’t happen often, let’s be honest, but like I said, if there is a guy that deserves a pass, it’s him.’