Jordan Henderson has been the topic of fierce debate among Liverpool supporters since he first stepped into Anfield (even on these very pages) and, in truth, will most likely carry on until the Reds captain eventually retires.
Regardless of how one feels about the 29-year-old, he has successfully retained the captain’s armband since the retirement of Steven Gerrard more than four years ago and has weathered the trials to retain his place as leader of the world’s best football team.
Nevertheless, the England international has had to face criticism from within Merseyside and without since signing from Sunderland in 2011, tainted as the sole surviving member from an otherwise low point in recruitment that included the likes of Paul Konchesky (the horror) and Stewart Downing.
That criticism and disbelief in his quality came even from his own teammates at Liverpool, as Henderson revealed in a recent appearance on Jamie Carragher’s blandly-titled podcast, The Greatest Game.
“I was trying to do the best I can do,” he said of his struggles adapting following his £20m move to Liverpool. “Being a footballer, there is criticism and people doubting you all the time.”
Luis Suarez had signed for the club six months prior, and while the Uruguayan had initially taken some time to bed in, his quality was quickly becoming apparent, particularly in his notorious intensity in training that placed exacting demands on his teammates, including a 20-year-old Henderson.
“At that time, I was a young player and there were one or two things Luis did in training that I didn’t like,” the Liverpool midfielder continued.
“It made me feel I wasn’t good enough to be in the same team in training. The arms were up like ‘What the fuck, what is he doing’, like I shouldn’t be there.
“That really hurt me. He did it three times and then I exploded and I was ready to kill him. From that point, I had a good relationship with Luis. The next game I set him up for his goal.
“He was brilliant with me after that and I was really close to him after that and he was another big player I learned from.”
Iron sharpening iron and all that, one must assume. Through it all, Henderson has captained both his country and one of the best Liverpool sides in history in lifting their sixth European Cup, leading the club to a records point haul and earning the trust of his manager, Jürgen Klopp on the biggest occasions when the stakes are highest. As far as captain’s CVs go, that’s probably as good as it gets.