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captain fantastic How Jordan Henderson won what appeared to be a impossible battle for credibility

Whisper it quietly around Liverpool, but it could be argued that Henderson has achieved more in his ten years at Anfield than Gerrard

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Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson (Isabel Infantes/PA)

Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson (Isabel Infantes/PA)

Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson (Isabel Infantes/PA)

IT appeared to be a credibility battle Jordan Henderson could never win.

After Sunderland Chairman Niall Quinn negotiated what was viewed to be an inflated £20 million deal to sell his star midfielder to Kenny Dalglish’s Liverpool back in 2011, the 21-year-old midfielder was instantly cast as Steven Gerrard’s unworthy successor by Liverpool fans and a sceptical wider football public.

Liverpool’s iconic 2005 Champions League-winning skipper is a Merseyside legend on a different level, with many placing Gerrard ahead of Dalglish as the greatest player in the club’s illustrious history. So whoever took the armband after Gerrard would always feel like the new frontman of Queen trying to replace the departed Freddie Mercury.

Yet Henderson has proved he can hit the highest of notes after all and, while he may never earn the affection that was afforded to local hero Gerrard, his own, unique Liverpool legacy is now secure.

Whisper it quietly around Liverpool, but it could be argued that Henderson has achieved more in his ten years at Anfield than Gerrard with this redoubtable general present for all the great moments in Jurgen Klopp’s glorious era.

Henderson joined Gerrard when he became a Champions League-winning captain for Liverpool in 2019, before claiming accolades for prizes the captain he succeeded never touched.

First there was the World Club Championship in Qatar and then, gloriously, he became the captain that helped to end Liverpool’s 30-year wait for a domestic title when he lifted the Premier League trophy in the summer of 2020.

The greatest hits have continued to accumulate for Henderson and his role in Liverpool’s 5-0 win at Manchester United last weekend – that included his stunning pass for Mo Salah’s hat-trick goal – a sumptuous footnote note attached to one of the Premier League’s most remarkable matches.

Henderson has overcome more than most in his drive to claim acceptance and then the acclaim of the Liverpool fans. And for the man who was there at the start of Henderson’s football journey, this is a story few have matched in the modern game.

“There has always been a few at Liverpool and in football generally who to want to find reasons to avoid giving Jordan Henderson the praise he is due and it has constantly confused me,” states former Ireland striker Quinn, speaking exclusively to the Sunday World.

“You look at Liverpool when he is not there and it highlights how important he has been for Liverpool and Klopp during a successful period in the club’s history, but I’m not surprised.

“Jordan had something most players don’t have when he was a kid and that’s a passion to succeed which separated him from the rest.

“So many young kids arrive at academies in England and they have all the ability in the world, but they have a feeling they have made it just because they are there. That’s not the case.

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“Getting into a club is just the start and from there, you have to do everything possible to take that chance or it will slip through your fingers.

“Jordan made sure he took his chance at Sunderland and it didn’t come easy to him, which is why I say he is a great role model for any young kid who is trying to understand what is required to make it as a professional footballer.

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Jordan Henderson is Jurgen Klopp’s general on the field.

Jordan Henderson is Jurgen Klopp’s general on the field.

Jordan Henderson is Jurgen Klopp’s general on the field.

“Do you have to be born with it? Do you have to have the skill and talent of Lionel Messi? No you don’t.

“If you listen to those around you and show a desire to reach the top day after day and never give up until you get everything out of your career, you can achieve what Jordan Henderson has.

“You need a resolve when things get tough, to overcome a few doubters and one day, you can be stood there lifting the Champions League trophy.

“Jordan has proved that is possible. His is a story all kids in England and Ireland can draw inspiration from.”

Klopp has long since been a vocal member of the Henderson fan club, with his eagerness to step in to ensure his on-field voice was given a new contract when talks broke down between the player’s agent and Anfield chiefs last summer evidence that the skipper is one of his untouchables.

Henderson was duly given the contract he has earned and, at the age of 31, he has confirmed Klopp’s conviction that he still has so much to offer.

“Hendo’s resilience makes him the player he is now,” declares Klopp, who will rely on his skipper to lead the battle cry in the Champions League showdown with Spanish champions Atletico Madrid at Anfield on Wednesday.

“We watched some videos of him when he was a young kid playing at Sunderland in my office and you can see he had some talent, but he has worked so hard to get to this point.

“He has fought to get there and now, at last, people understand he is one of the best players in the Premier League.

“For people who cannot understand that Hendo is a great player, I cannot help you. Just look at how important he is for this team and what we have achieved.”

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Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp (left) and Jordan Henderson with the Champions League trophy as they arrive back at John Lennon Airport, Liverpool (Dave Howarth/PA)

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp (left) and Jordan Henderson with the Champions League trophy as they arrive back at John Lennon Airport, Liverpool (Dave Howarth/PA)

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp (left) and Jordan Henderson with the Champions League trophy as they arrive back at John Lennon Airport, Liverpool (Dave Howarth/PA)

Amid these eulogies for Henderson, it’s remarkable to reflect that Liverpool’s former Director of Football Strategy Damien Comolli, claims the primary reason why he lost his job at Anfield in 2012 was due to his insistence that Liverpool needed to sign the midfielder.

Comolli stated that the club’s current owners suggested the Henderson deal he negotiated with Quinn and Sunderland was an expensive mistake that highlighted his inability to identify talent.

It’s a story that confirms this talisman leaped over so many hurdles to convince even his own employers that he was worthy of wearing the famous red shirt.

That battle has now been won as Henderson knows he will be remembered as one of the great Anfield captains.

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