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Jürgen Klopp: I Wanted Henderson To Stay

In his press conference ahead of the preseason match against Leicester City, the manager talks about the big departures this summer, and what they’re doing about it.

Liverpool Pre-Season Training Session Photo by Andrew Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images

It’s been a pretty dramatic couple of weeks for Liverpool, and now that one chapter is over another has to begin.

The week was capped off with the squad traveling to Singapore to continue their preseason training, leaving behind former captain Jordan Henderson and defender Fabinho for their inevitable moves to Saudi Arabia. Liverpool have now lost five midfielders this summer (although two were never really reliable) and will be looking to make some drastic changes ahead of the new season to compensate.

Henderson’s departure was probably the biggest shock of them all, coming in quickly and unexpectedly shortly after he returned to Merseyside for preseason. In dizzying and disappointing fashion for all, by the middle of this week he was already training in Croatia with his new club.

Naturally, in his first conference since the departure was confirmed, manager Jürgen Klopp was asked how Henderson’s move came about and how it will ripple out to the squad - including who the new captain will be, and their transfer moves heading into the end of the summer window.

“The relationship between Hendo and me grows over nearly eight years and it’s not about that. Hendo knew exactly the situation – that we want to keep him but if he wants to leave, there’s no reason why we should throw any rocks or stones in the way and stuff like this,” Klopp said, in a questionable turn of phrase.

“It was full of respect and full of everything you need in a situation like that. But it was not about me convincing him, it was about me reacting on what was happening – what I did and that’s how I understood the role in that moment.

“I think the video the boys made for him, if you see that, if you hear that then you know everything about the man. I think everybody would wish that if you leave somewhere then your friends would speak like that of you and that was really impressive, I have to say. So, it’s all good. He’s not here anymore. I said it as well, he will miss us, we will miss him. But we have to go on and we will – that’s clear. That’s pretty much everything.”

Klopp has never been one to stand in the way of player leaving, if that player wants to leave, but Henderson made no indication in the weeks and even days leading up to the preseason return to Merseyside that he wanted to leave either. But in Klopp’s own words, “we have to go on.”

Moving on means choosing a new captain, for starters.

“That has nothing to do with the general captaincy. Virgil will start the game tomorrow, if nothing happens in training, Virgil will [be] captain of the team tomorrow,” Klopp continued.

“I know already my decision but the general thing is I have to tell it first to the players before I speak in public about it. But it was like this, I didn’t expect to have that situation a few weeks ago that I have to think about it. So, that’s it pretty much.

“But in general the games so far, I didn’t think before the games about that. In half-time we have easy rules there. Virg was number three last year, so that’s why he wears it when he starts. And in the second half, after that it is who is longest in the club and I think it was most of the time Joe Gomez, if I’m right. So, that’s it.

“It’s an important decision – [an] even more important decision is the general leadership group. Yes, it’s a big change for us, big characters left the club this summer but that’s how it is. Things have to change at one point, it’s always clear.

“You cannot keep things going just because you don’t want to have any kind of changes or development or whatever. Now we have it and now we will have to use it. That’s exactly the plan. I’m really positive about that. I can see a lot of positive signs in training, in the games as well – mostly in training, we train much more often than we play obviously. So, the boys understand the situation and I’m really happy about that.”

The biggest changes have obviously come to the position that arguably needed the biggest changes, and even with new midfield signings like Alexis MacAllister and Dominik Szobozslai, there is still work to be done.

“We know we have to do something there, that’s absolutely clear. We are working on solutions, but I think everybody can imagine that,” Klopp said when the midfield was mentioned.

“Trent can play the position [of a number 6 midfield role]. I know after we put him in this kind of flexible role – right-back, midfield position – last year everybody told us that he should play now completely in midfield, without really explaining why, to be honest. But that’s not the job obviously of you to explain why, just ask for it. That’s fine.

“So, on the position six it’s a completely different position than he played last season or he played for England because it’s a holding position, you have to organise much more, you have to know who is in your back, two centre-halves but not another midfielder, stuff like this. We really thought it’s a very good and important thing to do in this pre-season. We will now try even when you are pretty sure on the position in the moment, No.6, we still want to try it with Trent on right-back again. That was always clear, that we will use the pre-season for that as well. Then we will see how we can start the season.

“The start is the start and then all the rest is the rest of the season. There are different things for us to do and consider, but yes Trent can play the position. It depends who is to the left and the right of him, how we defend as a group much more important. If we do that well, if we defend with all the other midfielders plus the three up front plus the last line really well, probably at times I can play the six because then there is not much to do anymore! Too often we leave too much work for the six and that was in other moments a little bit the problem, so that’s why it’s a general task for us to work on and that’s what we are doing. Yeah, then we will see who plays where.”

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