‘Very good player’: Henry wowed by transformation of 24-year-old Arsenal let go in 2017

Thierry Henry has praised AC Milan midfielder Ismael Bennacer for how he has picked up his career after leaving Arsenal in 2017.

The 24-year-old departed after only making one senior appearance and Henry shared, during his time coaching at the club, he came across the now-thriving star.

That exit from north London led him down the road towards Italy and Empoli. That’s where Bennacer started the road to becoming a title-winner because those performances in Florence caught the eye of giants AC Milan.

He joined the seven-time European Cup winners in 2019, and last season, under the stewardship of Stefano Pioli, he helped the club secure Serie A title glory once more.

And whilst Arsenal chase Champions League football in London, he was in the capital on Wednesday night captaining AC Milan as they fell to a 3-0 defeat to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.

Nonetheless, Henry explained how the defensive-minded Bennacer has now become a ‘very good player’ and transformed his career, as he told CBS Sports on Paramount+ (05/10/22 at 7:50 pm).

“I came across Ismael at Arsenal with the U-19s and the youth team,” said Henry.

“It was a tough one for him there, but he found a way to go to Empoli, the national team with Algeria, winning the Africa Cup of Nations, being their best player and he did find a space for him at Milan.

“He’s very much a defensive midfielder. What I like about him is that he will look to pass the ball forward. The anticipation. He never gives up and he is trying all the time to stop the opposition so he can go forward with it.

“He is a very good player. I am happy for him. When you leave a big club like Arsenal, then you find yourself in a situation ‘where am I going to go?’. He didn’t feel sorry for himself and he did find a way.”


Arsenal have had a strong history of producing top talent from their academies, even in Bennacer’s case, they are let go to thrive elsewhere.

Sometimes leaving the comfort of where you are being taught your football education as a young kid helps.

Perhaps, if Bennacer stayed at the Emirates, then he wouldn’t be in this current situation where he is a Serie A title winner.

Not only that, but it just goes to show the character of the player, who also won the Africa Cup of Nations in 2019 in the colours of Algeria.


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