For years, as Lionel Messi grew from one of the best in the world, to the best in the world, to the best that’s ever played the game, Liverpool fans have lamented never getting to see the best at his best at Anfield. Years of languishing in the league left the Reds without its famous European nights, and certainly missing out on the pointy ends of the competition, where you’d most expect to see the likes of Messi.
It wasn’t just disappointing for the fans, but the players. When captain Jordan Henderson came on to replace an injured Naby Keita in the first leg, it was the first time Hendo had played Messi in a competitive match. However, one thing Henderson wouldn’t allow himself to do was to ask for the famed #10 Barcelona kit after the match.
“Roy Keane told me when I was at Sunderland that if you ask for someone’s shirt, it looks like you are in awe of them,” Henderson said of the situation in an interview with the Daily Mail.
”As it turned out, I came home with Luis Suarez’s shirt. Luis is a good lad and he gave me it as a gesture as we had played together for Liverpool. I don’t know what he’s done with mine!”
Probably burned it after that second leg, I’d imagine! Also interesting to note that he didn’t ask for Philippe Coutinho’s kit (must have been hard to spot on the bench). For all of Suarez’s many on-pitch shitbaggery, his former teammates still speak highly of him off-pitch. For what it’s worth.
“You don’t think to yourself ‘Oh my God - that’s him’ but there’s no question he plays the game differently to when you see him on TV,” Hendo continued, clearly not at all in awe. “He’s so fast.
“Thinking about his free-kick now, I still can’t believe he scored it. I actually thought he was going to take it short.
“I’ve told you how good I think Ali (Alisson Becker) is but Messi put that shot in the one area Ali couldn’t protect. The whip, the pace, the precision - It was absolutely perfect.”
Nope. No awe from Hendo here, seeing the best that’s ever played the game up close and personal.
Regardless, Hendo and company got the last laugh, showing what a team and an incredible atmosphere can do when working together.