London: Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger hailed Thierry Henry as better than Brazil’s World Cup hero Ronaldo after the French striker made it five goals in two games with a double in the 3-1 win over Aston Villa.
Henry was a World Cup flop while Ronaldo scored eight goals to lead Brazil to glory.
But the Frenchman’s outstanding form for the Gunners over the year means he is regarded a serious challenger to the Brazilian for the title of European Footballer of the Year.
Wenger also insisted that his striker is better than Manchester United’s Ruud van Nistelrooy, who has also struck a rich vein of form.
Henry struck a superb hattrick to sink Roma in the Italian capital in the Champions League midweek.
On Saturday, he produced a virtual carbon copy of one of those goals with a stunning free-kick to put Arsenal 2-0 up, and then added a late penalty to kill off a battling Villa after Thomas Hitzlsperger had given them hope.
The win put Arsenal four points clear of Liverpool and left Wenger, who rescued Henry from the Juventus reserves, purring with almost paternal pride.
“Thierry has had an outstanding performance again and again an outstanding week.
“He should certainly be Footballer of the Year in this country,” said the Arsenal boss.
“European Footballer of the Year' I’d say he’s in contention certainly.”
The European honour is decided in mid-December and the impact players make in big international tournaments generally decides who wins.
Wenger nevertheless insisted: “Ronaldo was the Player of the World Cup but has not played much before or after. The World Cup is three weeks and the year is 52 weeks.
“When you want to see a good player, you ask how many games did you play in the season and how many titles did you win. They are the real champions.”
Wenger also sees no reason why Henry’s scoring spree cannot continue into the crunch clash with Manchester United at Old Trafford next weekend.
“Thierry was leading scorer in the Premiership last season and now he has scored five times in two big games.
“He is physically extremely strong and recovers so well. You need a special strength to deliver that kind of performance.”
Robert Pires’ 17th-minute goal had given Arsenal the edge in a tightly fought first half at Highbury.
But it was Henry who put them in control after he was fouled on the edge of the area four minutes after the break.
Pires stepped over the ball, leaving Henry to curl a perfect 25-yard effort into the top corner.
Hitzlsperger banged in an equally impressive strike from similar range with the outside of his left foot to get Villa back into the game but Henry’s cute chipped penalty eight minutes from time ensured there was no nervous finale for the Highbury faithful.
Henry, who has now scored 15 goals in all competitions this season, said the win was a sign of Arsenal’s character.