Jordan Henderson, formerly of Sunderland and assuming a successful medical and the midfielder agreeing to terms, will become the latest player to join Liverpool Football Club later today. David N'Gog, Liverpool's promising striker on the fringes of the first team who originally arrived from Paris Saint-Germain for a bargain £1.5M, heads in the other direction to help make up the fee. And so, after a seemingly endless series of rumours to start off the transfer window, Liverpool secures its first move of the summer.
Henderson, a Sunderland-born product who came up through their academy, was valued by Steve Bruce at around £20M, which even after taking the English premium into consideration and that he had a massive four years remaining on his contract seemed more than a touch steep. For all that he's a quality prospect with plenty of room to develop, when you start dealing in those kinds of figures you expect a household name, and Henderson—for all the ink, both virtual and real, that's been spilled on him over the past few weeks—wasn't an especially well known name outside the Stadium of Light.
Still, though the fee may have been high, most didn't think him a poor player. In fact, Henderson is almost universally considered to be at least quite good: A versatile attacking midfielder, a more highly regarded Jonjo Shelvey with a fair bit of Premier League experience for his age and a player who created the fifth most scoring chances in the entire league over the 2010-11 season. Amongst the many players linked to Liverpool early on in the transfer window, amongst the likes of Ashley Young and Stewart Downing and Charlie Adam, it would have been hard to argue that it wasn't Henderson who appeared the most promising English name being churned out by the rumour mills.
Even then, however, £20M would have seemed too much, even if a significant portion of it had been dependent on Henderson achieving certain performance benchmarks. Especially when it would mean a lot of money spent at a position that could hardly be called one of Liverpool's greatest needs. Sunderland had in the past, however, shown an interest in David N'Gog, and earlier in the summer Liverpool had made it clear that he could leave if he found another club. As long as that club was willing to pay £8M for him.
It was a valuation of the Liverpool striker that many fans baulked at, thinking it signaled he was far more likely to stay than to go. But of course, in a world where Jordan Henderson—as good a prospect and decent a player as he might be—is given a valuation as high as he was, David N'Gog's price tag suddenly seems a little less unreasonable.
And, as it happened, Sunderland's past interest in N'Gog was rekindled while the clubs negotiated, leaving the two rather inflated price tags to at least somewhat cancel each other out in a cash plus player exchange that will see around £12M and David N'Gog head to Sunderland for Jordan Henderson. It is also believed that a not insignificant portion of the fee remaining after N'Gog's valuation will be dependent on Henderson reaching certain performance benchmarks. Just how much of the fee will be determined by just how good Henderson ends up being isn't yet, and may never be, entirely clear. No matter the finer details, though, going from something in the range of £18-20M for the Sunderland starlet to a fee around £12M plus a player whose time at Anfield was likely at an end no matter what is worlds apart.
It's still a touch high, perhaps, but then one can get into the issues of English players demanding a premium and that Henderson had four years remaining on his contract. It also seems likely that unless he's a complete bust, most of that fee could be recovered by selling him on again. It's still a gamble, of course, but given N'Gog's current situation with the club and the likely high resale value for Henderson no matter what happens at Liverpool, it's hardly the gamble it could have been.
The players' medicals still need to be done, and both N'Gog and Henderson need to finish negotiating terms, but by all reports those are mere formalities and this is a deal that's to the satisfaction of all parties.
For Liverpool, it means a potentially exciting midfield prospect with enough experience to step in and at least play some kind of role with the first team next season while being young enough to continue his development as part of Liverpool Football Club. For David N'Gog, it's a chance to see if those flashes of promise he showed can turn into something more with a solid run of action that he was never likely to get at Liverpool. And for Sunderland, it's a good chunk of cash to add to the £18M they received for Darren Bent as they begin their rebuilding efforts.
Quite how it will all pan out a few years down the road is anybody's guess. For now, though, best of luck to David N'Gog at Sunderland, and welcome to Liverpool, Jordan Henderson...