Jordan Henderson is closing in on a decade’s worth of service to Liverpool, but it took the midfielder quite some time to earn his stripes at Anfield.
Having lifted Liverpool’s sixth European Cup following the 2-0 victory over Tottenham in Madrid, Henderson will go down in the record books among some of the Reds’ greatest leaders.
We’ve taken a look back at the Liverpool team from his debut in a 1-1 draw with Sunderland on the opening day of the 2011-12 season to show just how far he has come.
One of the leading names in the XI, Reina was powerless to stop Seb Larsson’s brilliant acrobatic equaliser at Anfield but later that season broke set a club record for total number of clean sheets, surpassing Ray Clemence and Bruce Grobbelaar.
Former teammates Jordan Henderson and Pepe Reina reunite in the England vs Spain friendly. pic.twitter.com/cwaZvlp979
— LFC Transfer Room (@LFCTransferRoom) November 17, 2016
Just 18 at the time, Flanagan had yet to reach ‘Scouse Cafu’ levels and made just eight appearances in all competitions for Liverpool in 2011-12.
After establishing himself in the Reds’ XI as they came so close to winning the title in 2013-14, injuries blighted the rest of his time on Merseyside before he was reunited with Steven Gerrard at Rangers.
Carragher only played alongside Henderson for two seasons at Liverpool, but the midfielder left a lasting impression on the Reds stalwart after a training ground clash with Luis Suarez.
“Jordan cost Liverpool £20million when he came from Sunderland in 2011, and Kenny Dalglish, the manager at the time, wanted to find a place for him in the team, and he initially played a lot of games on the right of midfield,” Carragher told ESPN in 2018.
“It took him time to find his feet. He could be a very intense character back then who would get frustrated and emotional at times, but I remember him having a spat with Luis Suarez in training one day and I just thought, ‘Do you know what? He has something.’
“They didn’t come to blows or anything like that, but Jordan and Luis clashed over something and exchanged words, but Jordan stood up to him.
“That’s not easy as a young player, especially with Luis being one of the older, established pros, but it showed Jordan’s determination, and a lot of us, myself included, wanted him to do well because he was so enthusiastic and clearly hungry to succeed.”
Another experienced head in Liverpool’s backline, Agger made his 100th Premier League appearance for Liverpool that season and passed on the vice-captaincy to Henderson upon his departure for Brondby in 2014.
Enrique had also moved to Liverpool from the North East that summer, arriving in a £7million deal from Newcastle United just two days prior to the clash with Sunderland, and later that season he appeared in goal against the Magpies after Reina had been sent off.
But injuries decimated his final three seasons at the club before he returned to his native Spain with Real Zaragoza.
The man himself. As previously mentioned, Dalglish often deployed Henderson on the right-hand side of midfield in his first season after joining from Sunderland. After an underwhelming debut campaign, Dalglish’s replacement, Brendan Rodgers, was even open to selling the midfielder.
But Henderson has outlasted all those around him and, while his role in the side has varied over the years, he’s developed into Liverpool’s natural leader under Jurgen Klopp.
Kuyt, meanwhile, is one of Liverpool’s ultimate cult heroes.
Jordan Henderson: “I will always be grateful to Sir Kenny Dalglish for having enough belief in myself to bring me here in the first place. But as well as Sir Kenny, Brendan played a massive part in my Liverpool career and development as a player here.” 👏🏻pic.twitter.com/7gFZl69PoV
— Anfield Watch (@AnfieldWatch) October 5, 2019
Speaking of ultimate cult heroes, Lucas surely fits the bill at Liverpool, having represented the club for a decade, made just short of 350 appearances and scored all of seven precious goals.
Ahead of the Brazilian’s departure in 2017, Henderson paid tribute to his long-serving team-mate, telling the club’s official website: “In simple terms he sets the standard of professionalism and attitude of what it is to be a Liverpool player.
“In the dressing room there is no-one who is respected or admired more.”
The fact those fake Craig Bellamy quotes about Adam’s arrival were believed by many sums up the midfielder’s Liverpool career quite neatly.
The third debutant in Liverpool’s midfield that day, Downing joined the Reds in a £20million deal from Aston Villa but failed to replicate the form that earned him an England recall, infamously failing to register a goal or assist in his debut Premier League campaign for the club.
Suarez had joined Liverpool the previous January and had a day of mixed fortunes against Sunderland, blazing a penalty over the bar after five minutes before opening the scoring eight minutes later.
The striker’s replacement, Meireles, was the reigning PFA Fans’ Player of the Year at the time but left Anfield to join Chelsea before the end of the transfer window – continuing a confusing career we still struggle to work out.
When discussing why Carroll failed to ultimately establish himself at Liverpool, Craig Bellamy compared the striker’s attitude to that of Henderson.
“My conversations always with Andy were… I don’t believe he worked hard enough during the week to be the player he wanted to become,” Bellamy told Sky Sports’ The Debate in 2018. “I never saw an inch of that, like with Jordan Henderson.
“He was going through a difficult period at that time as well, but he just trained and trained and trained, he kept improving, going to the gym.
“He worked, and I knew, I remember saying to him, ‘You’re going to be a top player. I know it, just by your attitude, and the ability you have, it will come’. I never felt that was going to be the case with Andy.”