Published On: Mon, Jan 15th, 2024
Sports | By

Man Utd signed the ‘next Thierry Henry’ but Alex Ferguson risk blew up | Football | Sport

Manchester United thought they had landed the next Thierry Henry when they persuaded David Bellion to leave Sunderland on a free transfer in the summer of 2003 and put pen-to-paper on a four-year contract at Old Trafford. But Sir Alex Ferguson’s gamble blew up as the Frenchman netted just eight goals in 40 appearances for the Red Devils before being shipped off to Nice two-and-a-half years later.

Bellion had initially moved to England in 2001 when he joined Sunderland from Cannes. And he showed raw talent during his time at the Stadium of Light, despite struggling with the physicality of the Premier League.

The Manchester Evening News reported in 2004 that Ferguson had seen Bellion’s blistering pace during an under-20s tournament in Jersey and wanted to transform the ace into a lethal finisher.

According to the Daily Star, Ferguson had high hopes when he signed Bellion and believed the forward could become the next Henry. The player scored during his first match in a United shirt as the Red Devils played against Celtic in a pre-season friendly and also lifted the Community Shield within weeks of his arrival.

Bellion went on to score against Everton and Tottenham in the Premier League and also netted against Leeds in a League Cup clash. But the ace underwhelmed during his time in the north west and failed to establish himself in the United first team. After finding the back of the net just five times in his second season at the club, he was shipped off to West Ham on loan in August 2005, but scored just once for the Hammers.

Bellion signed a permanent deal with Nice the following January and went on to help Bordeaux win the Ligue 1 title and French Cup in 2009. He retired in 2016 following a spell with French third-tier side Red Star.

Bellion was interviewed by the i newspaper in 2020 as he spoke about a whole host of subjects. And the former player explained: “I was always like a dreamer. My dad’s a dreamer too. I guess it was the mixture of genetics and culture.

“Many football players only think about football. They don’t go to the museum. They don’t care about this, they don’t care about that. It’s like being a robot of football. And, honestly, if you tell me to do that for one, two or three years, until you get the Golden Ball, but you will have to sacrifice your free time, I would not trade it. I love freedom too much. I love culture too much. I don’t regret the kind of person I am.

“Sometimes I maybe have regrets about making a mistake in football, but life is an adventure and who I am now, at 37, is the result of what I was before. Everybody in football has their own character. A lot of people thought I was either a weirdo or too kind, or I was this, or I was that – but I’m not going to change just for the glory of football.”

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