Emmanuel Petit has condemned apathy in France towards Thierry Henry and claimed the country would be better under German rule.
A former team-mate of Henry at Monaco, Arsenal and in the France national team, Petit described the prevailing attitude towards the striker as "hypocritical and cowardly".
Henry is leaving the New York Red Bulls and may have played his final match, with the 37-year-old yet to open up about his future plans.
He has been immediately linked with a return to a non-playing role at Arsenal, the club at which he enjoyed his best success during an eight-year spell.
It has been suggested that Henry should be afforded one last outing for France, as a farewell match, and Petit, 44, can see the merit but suspects he is in a minority.
"Why not, but people don't like Thierry Henry," Petit said.
"In England, he has a statue. That says a lot. He is revered over there.
"How can you reproach Thierry Henry? His handball against Ireland? It helped us qualify for the World Cup in South Africa.
"He's done nothing wrong. France is hypocritical and cowardly.
"Sometimes I say to myself that having been invaded by the Germans, we would be better led today."
Petit immediately faced criticism for appearing to confer praise on Nazi Germany, which invaded France during the Second World War.
Petit claimed, however, only intended to comment on modern-day Germany.
"Germany shows us today that it is better than us, politically, economically and in a sporting sense, and I didn't mean to say anything else," Petit said.
"But I can never stop people from making amalgamations. The Germany that I like, it is that of today. Don't make me say what I wasn't thinking."
Petit stressed Henry, a 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000 winner, deserves a profile more in tune with his achievements.
"This bad image of Thierry Henry annoys me," Petit said in the sports.fr interview. "The press never criticises itself, never goes back and never excuses itself.
"He got screwed by the French press after his handball, and since then he does not speak to the French (media).
"But look, he speaks very well to the British media. He was an expert during the World Cup on the BBC, he enjoyed it because he loves football.
"In France he has no relationship with the press, so what? Maybe because he wasn't smiling when he scored for Les Bleus.
"There you are, that's what I hate in this country.
"I have a lot of difficulty with the French, I've never seen a people so arrogant, smug, untruthful and hypocritical."