Henderson will captain Liverpool for the eighth season in a row when the action begins next term and his first task is clear
To anyone who witnessed a dejected Jordan Henderson traipsing through the Stade de France mixed zone, fresh from having lost the Champions League final, the idea of him living ‘one of the best days of his life’ a little over 12 hours later was a fanciful one last month.
Henderson looked close to tears as he made his way through the post-match media section on Saturday May 28, having just been bested 1-0 by Real Madrid in the biggest game in club football in Paris.
He was still gracious and classy enough to stop and speak to a handful of reporters, but it would have been a sad night for the Liverpool captain en route back to Merseyside. One of the lowest moments of his career, in fact.
The end-of-season parade that followed, however, proved to be an inspired decision by both the club and Jurgen Klopp as the players and the staff celebrated their League and FA Cup double.
Henderson cut quite the contrasting figure from the previous night on the top deck of the roofless bus, partying the afternoon away while superstar DJ Calvin Harris provided one of the most exclusive sets of his career.
It’s estimated that over 500,000 lined the city streets to welcome home their heroes that day and the players responded in kind, thanking their followers for lifting the mood and giving them one of the days of their careers.
“Didn’t think it would be possible after last night but today was one of the best days of my life.” Henderson posted on Instagram at the time. “Thank you Reds.”
It was the perfect antidote to the sadness that engulfed the club the night previous in France as the Reds lost on the pitch and their fans were subjected to horrendous treatment from the local police outside the shambolically organised event.
Ultimately, the decision to go ahead with the parade will serve another purpose too. These players will remember this feeling next season, they will use it to propel them once more towards the biggest honours in football.
As captain, Henderson has a vital role to play in ensuring everyone is ready to go again when pre-season starts in just over a week. He will be instrumental in making sure the entire squad’s abiding memories of the previous campaign is not what happened in Paris but what happened in Liverpool, celebrating with silver.
So the airing of a brand new film all about Henderson and his relentless levels of determination and dedication have come at quite the opportune time for Klopp.
In the Nike Football documentary, titled ‘Jordan Henderson Is Never Done’, the Reds boss details exactly why the former Sunderland youngster is the perfect captain for Liverpool – and why, indirectly, the skipper has an early job to do this pre-season when the whole club attempt to bounce back from the bitterly disappointing end to an otherwise exceptional season.
“Nothing we achieved in the last few years would have happened without him, that’s easy to say,” Klopp says of Henderson. “There are so many important things you do over a season to keep a group together, to keep a group going in difficult moments, and he is great in that.
“He has speed, he has endurance, so he can run for ages. Defensive skills are great, offensive skills are really great: awareness, vision, passing. I expect from him nothing else than I expect from all the others: be the best version of yourself as often as [is] somehow possible. That gives us a good chance to win football games.
“He’s captain of my side because he was captain when I arrived here and I saw no need to change it – that’s maybe the biggest compliment. I obviously didn’t know Hendo when I arrived here; I knew him as a player but not as a person. He brings everything you need to lead a football team.”
Perhaps the task of marshalling and cajoling this world-class collection of football players is made easier as captain by the types of personalities within the squad, at least.
With Liverpool in possession of three skippers of national teams in Andy Robertson (Scotland), Virgil van Dijk (Netherlands) and Mohamed Salah (Egypt), the challenge of maintaining standards and focus is helped considerably, even more so by Liverpool’s unofficial leadership committee that now also includes Alisson Becker, Trent Alexander-Arnold and vice-captain James Milner.
“Jordan knows what it means to the fans around the world and that is huge in terms of your captaincy because it is the team he leads but it also represents the fans, the staff,” Henderson’s former Sunderland team-mate and close friend David Meyler tells the ECHO.
“I don’t think it’ll be too difficult to police that dressing room. If you look at the team, Alisson, Robertson, Trent, Virgil, Milner, who has been vice captain, Salah, they are captains for their countries, so for Jordan to still be captain and for them to respond to him as captain is quite remarkable and that is testament to him.
“A great example of that is Jurgen Klopp. When he came in from Dortmund, there would have been people who looked at him and there might have been the odd reservations, but he has understood what makes it tick and Jordan is an example of that too.”
For Henderson himself, even now after a decorated spell at Anfield, the driving factor remains the wrought-iron desire to prove doubters wrong. That particular pool has all but evaporated since he made his Liverpool debut over a decade ago, but that drive never dims, he claims.
Henderson says in the film: “When I’m on the pitch I’m different. I think I’ve always been quite an instinctive player, quite a high-energy, intense player, quite emotional. I’ve sort of had to improve over the last few years, definitely, since Jurgen came. I get a lot of help from the players around me, of course, a lot of help from the coaching staff.
“I do become a lot more intense [on the pitch], a lot more aggressive – only to try to help the team. I need to shout at people for them to be able to hear me really.
“My motivation has always been to prove people wrong and I don’t think that will ever go, I think that will always be the case. I’ve always had to prove people wrong all through my life and I don’t think I’d want it to change now. I’ve learned to deal with it, I’ve learned to use it in a positive way.”
The memories of last season might still be fresh in the collective mind’s eye at Liverpool, but Henderson’s first job for pre-season is already clear under Klopp as the club attempt to shake off events in Paris at the start of July.