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Few would have predicted the journey Jordan Henderson has been on since joining Liverpool on this day 10 years ago.
Signed by then-manager Kenny Dalglish for what was considered a hefty £20million, the promising talent from Sunderland was hailed as “everything” the club wanted from a midfielder.
Henderson eventually went on to become Liverpool’s fifth European Cup-winning captain, and first to lift the Premier League in a momentous campaign.
Yet it has not all been plain sailing along the way, with plenty of challenges and disappointment, as well as triumph.
Here Mirror Football has taken a look back at the highs and lows of his decade at Liverpool Football Club.
Jordan Henderson signing for Liverpool 10 years ago
(Image: Liverpool FC via Getty Images)
Up for sale
It was Liverpool’s Director of Football, Damien Comolli, who gushed about the player Liverpool had signed on the 20-year-old’s arrival at Anfield.
"He has got all the skills technically that we needed," Comolli said. "He's good with the ball, he's creative, he's got good passing, he's physically very good.
"That's everything we wanted in a midfielder and he's versatile as well. For manager Kenny Dalglish he will be the player we wanted."
Sadly for Henderson, Dalglish lasted just a year in the hot seat, and his successor, Brendan Rodgers, did not initially feel the same way.
Despite making 48 appearances in his debut season, the Geordie prospect was told, amidst some early criticism, that he was surplus to requirements.
“That was a difficult moment I remember very clearly,” Henderson said to the Guardian .
“We were preparing for a game against Hearts at Anfield. We met as normal in the hotel and I got a knock on my door saying the manager wanted to speak to us.
Liverpool wanted to sell Henderson to Fulham just a year after signing him
(Image: Getty Images)
“To be fair to Brendan Rodgers, it was really just a conversation. It was an opportunity I didn’t want and I didn’t like. I still felt I had an awful lot to give, but I was in a very dark place at that time.”
The opportunity was a potential transfer to Fulham, as Liverpool eyed a swap deal for forward Clint Dempsey.
“It implied to me that he would let me leave and it was up to me,” Henderson told Football London. “I went back to my room. I shed a few tears. I ended up crying a little bit because it hurt so much.”
The view from inside Liverpool was particularly damning too, as Comolli later revealed.
“The day I got sacked (April 2012) they (Liverpool’s owners) told me I had made a big mistake on Jordan and he was a waste of money.”
But Henderson was not prepared to give up on his dream of playing for one of England’s most-prestigious clubs that easily, and rejected the move.
“I spoke to my agent and told him what had happened and I said I didn’t want to go. I wanted to stay and fight and try and improve and try to prove the manager wrong.
“My agent agreed. I spoke to my dad. He was gutted but he backed my decision to stay and fight.
“From that point, I just kept my head down. I knew I wouldn’t get as much game time as I wanted but I still had faith.”
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A second chance
Henderson was never under any illusions he would walk straight into Liverpool’s team.
And after Rodgers made it clear he was not a big part of his plans, it could have been easy to have grown disconcerted.
But he credits his former manager ( https://www.liverpoolfc.com/news/first-team/367632-jordan-henderson-leicester-programme ) for showing renewed belief in him and helping to mould his raw talent.
“In the three years-plus I spent working for Brendan I learned so much from him. He was massively generous when it came to giving time to explain what he wanted from you, in terms of improvement and development.”
He soon became a regular figure in Rodgers’ side, and was pivotal to Liverpool’s dramatic title charge in the 2013/14 season.
What is perhaps sometimes overlooked from that campaign is that Henderson missed three of the last four matches following the first red card of his career in the win over Man City, which had Liverpool on the brink of becoming champions.
While there were a number of contributing factors behind their failure to land the trophy from there, Henderson’s absence was largely felt in the defeat to Chelsea and subsequent draw with Crystal Palace which ended their hopes.
In two years he had gone from being on the verge of a transfer to an important figure at the club.
But criticism was never too far away…
The early days of Henderson's Liverpool career provided some difficult challenges
(Image: Getty Images)
For any midfielder joining Liverpool at that time, the likes of Xabi Alonso, Javier Mascherano and Steven Gerrard are pretty hard acts to follow.
The constant comparisons were a tough weight to bear, and didn’t Henderson just know it.
“It took me a while to get used to the size of the club and the expectation and the criticism, and everything that comes along with it,” he explained.
“It took me a few years, I would say, to really feel like I deserved to be playing there.
“[It was a] big price tag, so people straight away were out to judge me.”
And few critics come bigger than Sir Alex Ferguson, who added fuel to the fire in his autobiography by revealing he opted against signing Henderson because of his running style.
“We noticed that Henderson runs from his knees, with a straight back, while the modern footballer runs from his hips.
“We thought his gait might cause him problems later in his career.”
Rodgers quickly defended his player and called for an apology.
"The statement in terms of Jordan was inappropriate really. This is a young guy who I've worked with now for over a season, and you won't get a more honest player.”
And while Fergie’s assessment had little to do with Henderson’s ability as a footballer, the underlying takeaway for many had been a misleading one: Britain’s most successful manager ever doesn’t fancy him – which actually wasn’t the case.
Ferguson clarified his comments years later.
“The actual story was we were ready to make a bid for him at Sunderland,” he said. “Our scouting and medical departments said he could be the type to get injuries. I had to make sure players would always be available. But we loved Jordan as a player.”
Henderson’s cause was not helped by England’s disastrous performances at the 2014 World Cup and 2016 European Championships, where he quickly became one of the fall guys in the absence of a clear scapegoat.
He later admitted the criticism did affect him, but used it as his fuel to rise up in the face of adversity.
That’s a big part of life, really,” he said. “You’re going to have setbacks, you’re going to have criticism, but it’s how you react to those situations. Use it as energy, use it as fuel to motivate you to come back stronger, to improve. That’s all I’ve ever tried to do.”
Fortunately for him, through all this, there was one key person guiding him, and another on his way.
Steven Gerrard handed over the Liverpool captaincy to Henderson
(Image: AFP/Getty Images)
It seemed as though Henderson, despite his near exit to Fulham, was long being primed to replace Liverpool’s greatest-ever midfielder.
And for that he only really has one person to thank, given Gerrard’s comments on the day of his arrival.
“It's a really positive signing – let's hope he is the next Steven Gerrard,” he said. “Liverpool needs a new Steven Gerrard. That's what good football clubs do – they replace their best players.”
Three years later, having finally earned his stripes on Merseyside, Rodgers had no hesitation in making Henderson his vice-captain, with Gerrard nearing the end of his career.
As far as apprenticeships go, Henderson was very much learning from the best.
“Having him around is great. You get a little bit of everything for improving both on and off the field. I’ve spoken to him a lot, every day really.
“He’s an ideal role model for all the young players at this club and hopefully I can continue to pick things up from him.”
But more importantly, Gerrard saw his potential too.
When the criticism towards Henderson was at its peak, his mother approached Gerrard with concerns, which he quickly allayed.
“She was worried for her boy,” Gerrard said. “He was a little lost. The move was initially too big for him.”
Before telling her: “I know he’ll be fine.”
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Henderson took over the armband full-time upon Gerrard’s departure in 2015 – another move which had the critics lining up.
And even he knew he had an impossible task ahead.
“I have said this before when I first took over the role of the captaincy when people might have doubted me and criticised me as a person, but I will always say this – no one will replace Steven Gerrard at this football club no matter what captains or teams win,” Henderson told the Independent.
“No one will ever replace him. It wasn’t even in my mind when I took over the captaincy to replace him, it was just to do the best I could the best for this football club and this team and that is all I ever try to do.”
In the six years that have followed, Henderson may not have replaced Gerrard’s legacy, but he has certainly created his own, becoming the first player to captain the team as domestic, European and World champions.
At the time of Liverpool’s Premier League title triumph – ending an agonising 30-year wait – Gerrard was among the first to send his congratulations to his former understudy.
“Couldn't have passed it to a better person. Proud of you, mate.”
Former teammate Jamie Carragher could only agree, telling Sky Sports : “I used to argue with Jordan all the time and I know the character and personality I want at my club and that is him.
"Who else could be captain after Steven Gerrard?”
The Klopp years
Henderson and Jurgen Klopp embrace after winning the Champions League in 2019
(Image: EMPICS Sport)
As much as Rodgers had gone full circle on Henderson's quality, a new manager with fresh ideas always brings uncertainty.
But any concerns Klopp would be changing his captain were very quickly put to bed.
"I did not have one second of a doubt about this," Klopp said shortly after his appointment. "I don't know who made the decision, maybe the team, I didn't ask because it is logical for me. I've met him and he is absolutely a leader."
For Henderson it was the confidence he needed to take his game to the next level, as Liverpool soon turned into a well oiled machine under Klopp, though a trophy continued to elude them.
And even as recently as 2018, the sceptics were still out in their droves.
“Jordan Henderson is a very good footballer; he is an England international player and for us our skipper,” Klopp said.
“How can he not be a brilliant player when he is a Liverpool player? If somebody doesn’t see his value, what can I do?”
Defeats to Sevilla in Basel and Real Madrid in Kiev had kept major trophies out of Henderson's grasp, but few could deny his impact on his team.
His return to the side after injury on the road to the Champions League final in 2018 gave the team an extra boost needed, and he carried that into the following campaign.
Liverpool amassed 97 points, falling just short of the Premier League title, but claimed the Champions League after a remarkable run, including the 4-3 comeback over Barcelona and victory over Tottenham in the final, with Henderson imperative to their fortunes.
“It’s obviously emotional. We have come a long way as a team and we have had so many knockbacks and to finally get over the line it is an amazing feeling and one that we will remember for ever. It’s so special," he said after the final win, where his hug with father, Brian – who had been battling cancer for long periods of his career – became one of the standout moments of the celebrations.
His hug with Klopp too, also spoke volumes, as both were reduced to tears after achieving a lifelong dream they had both been striving for.
Citing the criticism levied at his player after the game, Klopp said triumphantly: "Jordan Henderson is captain of the Champions League winner 2019 — that's satisfying actually."
Henderson lifts the Premier League trophy aloft after ending Liverpool's 30-year wait
Winning the Champions League proved to be the vindication Henderson needed to firmly claim his place among Liverpool's heroes, as well as perhaps in his own mind.
He soon had a tattoo of the trophy inked on his thigh, but better yet was still to come, as Liverpool stormed into the new Premier League season, going 27 games unbeaten, with Henderson playing the best football of his career.
Klopp hailed the impact on his skipper: "He is now calmer in certain situations. His self-awareness, his self-confidence grew again from a proper level already.”
Before adding of the Champions League win: "That helped for sure. No one can take that away from him."
While Liverpool's run to the title was then disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic, Henderson was still making big contributions away from the field, as the catalyst behind setting up the PlayersTogether fund to support the NHS.
And even Ferguson couldn't help but admit he had made a wrong turn all those years previously.
“He has proved that now [he is a great player]. All the stories I hear about him tell me that I missed out on a really good person.”
Liverpool had already added the Club World Cup to their trophy cabinet, as they closed in on a full sweep of major honours, with their Premier League title wait eventually ended the following June.
“To finally get over the line is a relief but also an amazing feeling. It’s a unique feeling and one that I’m very proud of," Henderson said.
What is your favourite moment from Jordan Henderson's Liverpool career? Let us know below.
His superb season was capped by being crowned FWA Player of the Year, as Klopp paid tribute to his captain, reducing him to tears, before another speech followed after he finished runner-up in BBC's Sports Personality of 2020 vote.
" Liverpool team they say we don't have one superstar. For us the team is the star. This is true. But you are a superstar at making us that team," Klopp said.
"After a tough journey with many obstacles everyone can see it – personality, character and ability. The complete package.
"You led our club to ending a 30-year wait. You did it with humility and grace. You're a world class athlete and football player but you are an even better human being."
It seems almost inconceivable now to think Liverpool were ever considering selling Henderson.
But reflecting on that stage of his career last month, he had the last word.
“I needed to prove to the manager I would get in his team eventually. I’d do absolutely everything to be in his team, this football club, and I’d prove them [the critics] wrong. In the end, I did.”