Jordan Henderson contract: a decade to overcome obstacles but Liverpool enter a cycle of reconstruction
Posted On July 21, 2021
Everything Jordan Henderson won at Liverpool was reluctantly given to him. The 31-year-old has struggled against all odds for a decade. There will be no sentimentality in the talks as he tries to negotiate an extension of his contract.
The Henderson agreement has two years to go. Now is the obvious time to tie up players with a longer term future at a club. A queue forms at Anfield. In addition to the captain, five first-team regulars – Virgil van Dijk, Fabinho, Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah – are out of contract in 2023. No one should be surprised if Henderson is close to the back of the line. .
The age of the English midfielder is against him. All of these players except Fabinho will be in their 30s in two years time, but Henderson is the oldest. He is also the one who had the least respect from the owners.
Fenway Sports Group (FSG) never wanted Sunderland’s £ 20million signing. Damien Comolli, who was Anfield’s football director ten years ago, told the Americans the then 20-year-old was “everything we wanted from a midfielder”. John W Henry was dismayed when he discovered that only Comolli had spotted Henderson and looked at the player just eight times. Henry said: “Even our scouts were opposed and shocked.”
When Comolli parted ways with the club a year later, the owners left him with no illusions as to why. “The day I was fired [FSG] told me I had made a big mistake on Jordan and that he was a waste of money, ”said the Frenchman.
Communications between Brendan Rodgers, the former manager, and Henry were often scathing towards Henderson. He has been described as “terrible” and one of the players who “does not deliver”. After just one season in Merseyside, Liverpool attempted to transfer the midfielder to Fulham as part of a deal involving Clint Dempsey. Henderson refused to go.
Right before Jurgen Klopp’s arrival at Anfield in October 2015, Henry was still talking about Henderson’s contribution to the team, saying he would sell him “tomorrow”.
Never mind that one of the turning points in the 2013/14 campaign was Henderson’s stoppage-time expulsion in the 3-2 win over Manchester City with four games remaining in the season. His absence in the 2-0 loss to Chelsea and the 3-3 draw with Crystal Palace was one of the crucial factors as the title slipped out of Liverpool’s hands.
By this time Rodgers had come to appreciate what Henderson had brought aside. Klopp understands his strengths too and the Englishman has become a vital cog in the team’s development on the path to Champions League victory in 2019 and the Premier League the following season. He also grew up as a leader in the locker room.
The FSG prides itself on doing things differently from other clubs. They think they can gain an edge over the competition by being smarter than their rivals. It hasn’t always worked that way.
Henderson’s gifts have sometimes been overlooked because much of what he does is not easily translatable into analysis. His use of space when the opponent has the ball is very important in stopping counter attacks before they develop. His willingness to accept positions left vacant by Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson gives full-backs the freedom to roam the pitch. During his career at Liverpool he always worked for the team at the expense of his own game. This was reflected in the criticism leveled at him by part of the fan base. Some don’t recognize the value of someone willing to do the dirty work.
The captain’s strengths are not immediately obvious. It has what Americans call “intangibles,” – a word Henry should recognize – and qualities that challenge numerical quantization. All of this is unlikely to be reflected in a new contract offer.
With the wage bill soaring – it rose 95% to £ 325million – and too many Premier XIs on the verge of reaching 30, FSG is already considering a round of rebuilding and the focus will be on recruiting young players. The pandemic has hit income hard.
It’s a bad time for the players to come to the negotiating table. Henderson is unlikely to get what he deserves. He has earned the respect of almost everyone but he may not receive the awards at Anfield.