Nwankwo Kanu has backed Thierry Henry to prove a success in management – regardless of where he takes his first job.
The Nigerian played alongside Henry at Arsenal for five years from 1999 and admired him as he not only developed into one of the world’s finest players, but someone he believed was destined to also excel as a coach.
Henry recently resigned from his role as a Sky Sports pundit, having also been Belgium’s assistant throughout their impressive run to the summer’s World Cup semi-finals, to pursue a new career in management.
He was repeatedly linked with succeeding Steve Bruce – who remains in his position – as manager of Aston Villa, but for all of the plight Villa have experienced, Kanu believes his former team-mate would still have impressed there.
It is often observed that management has become so ruthless that one failure can end a career and that those lacking in experience should be particularly selective about their first job, but Kanu told Press Association Sport: “I don’t think any job is difficult for him.
“What he needs is the space and an opportunity to prove himself, so if they can give him that, why not? He can do it. It doesn’t matter. He’s Thierry Henry. He’s been talking on the TV; it’s time for him, when you talk the talk, you walk the walk. He needs an opportunity to showcase what he’s got.
“When he was new (at Arsenal, in 1999) he was not really the character of a manager, but as the years kept going by you could see ‘yeah, he’s got it, he can do that’. He’s been there, the World Cup (with Belgium) tells you all about him, and he can progress from there.”
Despite minimal managerial experience, the 40-year-old Henry’s one-time France team-mate Zinedine Zidane excelled at Real Madrid, and largely because of the profile he had as a player.
Henry may have to rely on similar strengths whenever and wherever it is he gets his chance and Kanu – who was in London to promote a fundraising fixture at the Petrolex Kanu Cup for the Kanu Heart Foundation – said: “He’s been there, done that. The players respect him, and he has a good record.
“He’s not somebody you can ask ‘what has he done?’. He could move to France, could coach people, bring the best from people. That’s what you need. An ex-international, in that role, counts for a lot.”
:: Kanu was speaking at the launch of Petrolex Kanu Cup 2018, the match raising funds for the Kanu Heart foundation. Taking place at The Hive Stadium on September 30, the game will feature stars like Sol Campbell, Robert Pires and Kanu