Former Liverpool hero Xabi Alonso has surprisingly told BBC Sport that Jordan Henderson is the key figure for the club as they go in quest of the Premier League title.
The ex-Spain midfielder was a hero at Anfield. He played 210 times for Liverpool proving an extremely popular figure with the club’s supporters.
He helped the club to Champions League success in one of the competition’s greatest ever finals in 2005. Liverpool came from three goals behind to lift the trophy after a penalty shootout.
Alonso gets his managerial career underway this weekend when his Real Sociedad B outfit take on Burgos in Segunda Division B.
Before then, however, he has been speaking about Liverpool during 2019/20. Perhaps surprisingly, amid a plethora of attacking and defensive talent, he has chosen the captain Henderson as a key man for the Reds this season.
He told BBC Sport: “Jordan Henderson has become a key figure in the changing room. I think he’s so respected, so important for his team-mates – that’s the sense I get from watching in the stands. For the way they play it’s very important, the energy he has.
“He’s able to take that step forward, not backwards to make that pressure a bit higher. The way he connects with the three players up front, they play very direct and the way Liverpool is playing is the Jurgen way – the way they played at Dortmund with him and the way they play at Liverpool now.”
TBR Verdict – Henderson importance perhaps is significant
Perhaps Alonso has mentioned the England international as part of the midfield union, or perhaps his importance is starting to be noticed a little bit more.
When he first signed for Liverpool in 2011, eyebrows were raised at the £20 million paid to Sunderland for his services.
In eight years, however, he has progressed each year. He has become a regular in the side and currently sits on 328 appearances for Liverpool.
That said, it is still a surprising choice for Alonso to pick out Henderson as the ‘key figure’. Mo Salah, Roberto Firmino or Sadio Mane typically earn the plaudits as the most important player. Some others may plump for the defensive steel of Virgil van Dijk or Alisson.
It is surprising because Henderson’s role is essentially to keep things simple. Keep the play ticking along and get the ball to the creative players.
The 29-year-old, however, is the kind of midfielder that you perhaps don’t notice until he’s not there anymore.
The £140,000-a-week (Spotrac) performer proved a lynchpin in Liverpool’s success last season and Alonso has clearly spotted his importance.