Jordan Henderson has become a “Liverpool great in his own right”, says John Aldridge, with the current Reds captain stepping out of Steven Gerrard’s shadow to become a modern day icon.
Few could have predicted that the 29-year-old would hit such heights after seeing him struggle through a testing 12 months at Anfield on the back of a big-money transfer in 2011.
Henderson has, however, never been one to back down from a challenge and has worked his way into the hearts of coaching staff and supporters on Merseyside.
In 2019 he got his hands on Champions League, UEFA Super Cup and Club World Cup crowns, while a 30-year wait for top-flight title glory in England appears set to come to a close in 2020.
Henderson has played a leading role in Jurgen Klopp’s side opening up a 22-point lead at the top of the Premier League table, with Aldridge claiming a place among the legends is now safely secured .
The former Reds striker told the Irish Independent : “Plenty of Liverpool fans rushed to judgement on Jordan after he struggled in his first few months at the club, and I was among those who questioned whether he was up to the task of leading from the front in a title-winning team.
“It didn't help that he was handed the task of succeeding Liverpool legend Steven Gerrard as the club’s captain, as it seemed like an almost impossible task and yet now he is every inch a Liverpool great in his own right.
“I don't remember Liverpool fans ever singing Henderson's name, despite him joining the select band of heroes who have lifted the Champions League trophy as Reds captain in Madrid last May.
“All credit to the lad because he has turned himself in a wonderful leader at the heart of this Liverpool team and I suspect manager Jurgen Klopp decided to substitute him with a couple of minutes to go [against Southampton] because he knew the fans would give him the salute he was due.
“Henderson is a shining example of a player who has taken his game up several levels working under Klopp and his coaching staff and when you look around the Liverpool team, there are examples of that.”
Klopp’s star-studded cast sent more records tumbling when sweeping past Southampton 4-0 on Saturday, with Aldridge now prepared to admit that the title is destined to end up at Anfield.
He added: “What this team are doing will be remembered for years to come and the focus they have shown to maintain this level of excellence for the best part of 18 months is quite extraordinary.
“The Liverpool fans were singing ‘we’re gonna win the league’ once again when Southampton were beaten and with the chasing pack dropping points on a reasonably regular basis, it does feel like it is a matter of time now.”
Liverpool’s senior stars are now taking in a winter break, which means they will not figure in Tuesday's FA Cup fourth-round replay with Shrewsbury, with Klopp’s troops set to be rested until taking in a meeting with Norwich on February 15.