Van Dijk: 'Overlooked' leader Henderson is perfect example to young players

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Michael Regan
The Liverpool defender was full of praise for his club captain, who lifted the Champions League trophy after Saturday's win over Tottenham

Virgil van Dijk says Liverpool’s “overlooked” captain Jordan Henderson is a perfect role model for any young footballer looking to make their way in the game.

Van Dijk celebrated as a vindicated Henderson hoisted the Champions League trophy aloft on Saturday night, cementing his status as a Reds legend with their sixth European Cup.

Henderson has faced perhaps more than his fair share of criticism from fans and pundits alike since moving to Merseyside in 2011 and initially struggling to cope with the weight of expectation.

Now an experienced captain at 28, he has gone from strength to strength under Jurgen Klopp – and his leadership gets the seal of approval from Van Dijk.

"If any young player wants to follow an example, it should be him,” Van Dijk told ESPN.

“He is a fantastic leader who everyone respects so much at Liverpool, and I'm very happy that he is my captain.

"As a person, Hendo is one of the most fantastic [people] you can ever meet. He has been putting the team before himself for years.

“What I like is that he uses everything he has experienced – the lows, the criticism, the trouble with injuries – to help others through similar situations.

"What he does gets overlooked because people think you wear the armband to look good in it and shout a lot and that's the job done.

“There is so much responsibility on the pitch and off the pitch: you have to think about everyone else before you get to yourself and Hendo is very skilled at that.”

Jordan Henderson Liverpool 2018-19

There is no shortage of talented youngsters to look up to Henderson at Melwood, but none have come so far in such a short period of time as Trent Alexander-Arnold.

He became the first player to play in consecutive Champions League finals before the age of 21 against Tottenham in Madrid, and is a mainstay in the Liverpool side having set a Premier League assists record for a defender this season.

Still only 20, he will be looking to make England’s right-back spot his own in the Nations League this month, and he too had nothing but praise for his international teammate.

"We [Liverpool] wouldn't be where we are now without him,” Alexander-Arnold said.

“I'm speaking for everyone when I say massive thanks to Hendo for leading us here. The team is always his first thought: none of us do that more for Liverpool than Hendo.

“He shows on a daily basis that he deserves to be skipper: how he carries himself in training and around the place, the respect he has for everyone, whether it's Mo Salah or the cleaning staff.

"[Henderson] doesn't see anyone as bigger or more important than anyone else and that's a lesson to learn not just in football but life too.

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“He is so valuable to the club and anyone at Melwood could speak for hours about just that."

Van Dijk may come up against Henderson and Alexander-Arnold on Thursday, as the Netherlands and England face off in the second Nations League semi-final.

With the winner going on to play Portugal or Switzerland in the inaugural final, club friendships will be put firmly to one side.

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