Bukayo Saka has revealed that Arsenal legend Thierry Henry has been in regular contact with him since his heartbreaking penalty miss for England in the Euro 2020 final.
Saka missed the decisive kick against Italy to shatter the Three Lions’ dreams of claiming major silverware for the first time in 55 years, but quickly received a wave of support after showing great courage to take a penalty aged just 19.
The Arsenal winger immediately put the disappointment behind him, enjoying a superb 2021/22 campaign, and he’s been in terrific form for England during the World Cup – Saka has three goals to his name after netting the final blow in Sunday’s 3-0 win over Senegal in the round of 16.
And although Saka is now hoping to dump France out of the competition at the quarter-final stage, he has spoken fondly of the kindness shown to him by Arsenal’s record goalscorer Henry – a former World Cup winner – who first got in contact when a message from an unknown number came through on Saka’s phone.
“Thierry was in touch,” Saka said. “It meant everything. He’s shown a lot of his character to get my number and to reach out to me. “It’s not just from that moment. After most Arsenal games, he reaches out to me and he’s still so passionate about the club and he’s an amazing person.”
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He continued: “I know how much my dad loves him and how much everyone at the club loves him and I know what he did for the club, of course.
“Thierry and Robert Pires have been around the club and spoken to me and helped me and they have supported me to this day, so I’m grateful to them. Of course, on the pitch, they delivered and they were magnificent and they delivered silverware for Arsenal, so they will be legends, always.”
Saka also played down comparisons to Kylian Mbappe’s World Cup form in 2018 and revealed whether or not he’d be prepared to take another penalty for England.
“First of all, thank you for the compliment … but no. There is only one Kylian Mbappe – and at the same time, there is only one me,” Saka replied. “I have progressed and matured as a player and a person since that moment [at Wembley].
“I would not have stepped up the times I have stepped up for Arsenal with penalties if I was not confident, so if the moment comes and if I am set to take it, I will be more than happy to.”