Wed, Jun 27, 2007 - Page 19 News List

Henry gets settled in at Nou Camp

OFFICIAL PRESENTATION The former Arsenal captain seemed to enjoy the experience of being introduced to thousands of excited Barcelona fans

AP , BARCELONA, SPAIN

French striker Thierry Henry, formerly of Arsenal, shows off his skills at the FC Barcelona soccer club in Barcelona, Spain, on Monday.

PHOTO: AP

With nearly 30,000 fans providing a hero's welcome to its newest signing, Thierry Henry already looked at home on the Nou Camp turf in his No. 14 FC Barcelona jersey.

Even star player Ronaldinho didn't have that many supporters on hand when he was introduced nearly four years ago.

"It's great to be here playing at Barcelona," the former Arsenal captain said in Catalan after he had greeted the ecstatic crowd and performed some ball-juggling tricks.

"I always said that if I ever leave Arsenal, it would be to play for Barcelona. It's no disrespect to anybody, it's my choice," Henry told reporters earlier. "The way Barcelona plays, the fans, just being here and what I'm noticing now, it's outstanding."

The emotions looked to hit Henry as he performed a lap across the Nou Camp.

The 29-year-old Frenchman never stopped applauding the fans, pausing only to pat the Barcelona crest on his jersey, all the while taking an occasional moment to let it all sink in.

"I'm always surprised when I see all you guys [the press] here and all the people in the stands waiting to see me," Henry said. "What they say is true: Barcelona is more than just a club."

President Joan Laporta introduced the Catalan club's first major summer signing as one of the greatest players in the world, comparing him to club legend Johann Cruyff who wore the same number.

Henry will have some work to do to show the comparison is merited after being limited to 17 games last season due to stomach and groin injuries. It was the first time in his eight-year career at Arsenal that the Frenchman featured in less than 30 games.

Henry, who passed his medical on Monday, will train under a special program to avoid a recurrence of the groin injury that limited his season.

"If you look at my record of injuries there is only one. Maybe not having played too much the season before can be good for this season," Henry said.

Barcelona paid 24 million euros (US$32 million) for Henry, who signed a four-year deal after leaving Arsenal as the club's top scorer, with 226 goals in 364 appearances. He helped the London team to two Premier League titles, three FA Cups and last year's Champions League final, which it lost to Barcelona.

Just where Henry will fit into Frank Rijkaard's star-studded -- but underachieving -- team is uncertain.

The club boasts two-time FIFA player of the year Ronaldinho, Cameroon striker Samuel Eto'o, Argentina winger Lionel Messi as well as playmaking midfielders Deco, Andres Iniesta and Xavi Hernandez.

"A great club like Barcelona will always have high quality players; what's most important is that Barcelona wins," Henry said. "Sometimes you have to sit on the bench, sometimes you play -- that's how you win titles. You have to adapt."

Barcelona was unable to adapt this past season, its first trophy-less campaign since 2004.

Problems in the dressing room overshadowed its on-field play as the defending Champions League winners crashed out of Europe, were embarrassed in the Copa del Rey semi-finals by mid-table Getafe and lost the league title to bitter rival Real Madrid.

Henry doesn't want to shake up the team or set any objectives for the season just yet.

"It has to be a club objective and it has to be about the club," he said. "There are some people who have been here a very long time and hopefully they can show me the way."

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