Jordan Henderson is a “fantastic” captain for Liverpool, says Virgil van Dijk, with the Reds skipper epitomising the collective mentality at Anfield by learning to turn a deaf ear to any detractors.
The England international has been earning plenty of plaudits of late, but that has not always been the case.
Henderson came close to leaving 12 months into his spell on Merseyside, but stuck around to earn favour and a standing as the natural successor to Steven Gerrard in the middle of the park.
His versatility has been put to good use over recent weeks, with greater freedom offered to him in his most natural role – delivering a number of assists – while he also stepped back into a centre-half berth at the Club World Cup when Van Dijk missed out through injury.
Henderson got his hands on that trophy after a 1-0 final victory over Flamengo, with another medal added to a collection which already includes Champions League and UEFA Super Cup successes and could have a Premier League memento to come.
Van Dijk said of the 29-year-old stalwart: “He’s our captain. That’s what we all respect. He’s having a fantastic season so far.
"He’s been doing fantastically whether he’s filling in for Fabinho at the moment or he’s playing as a right midfielder where he’s giving assists and stuff.
“He has been fantastic, in and out of the pitch he is very important for us whether he plays or not. We all respect him on that level.
"I think from him that is also the most important thing. When other people say negative things it doesn’t really matter.
“He was outstanding when he played centre half. I was really proud of him. I told him after the game. He has got a lot more respect for what we do in the back as well.
"It’s not easy and I know sometimes we make it look a bit easy but it’s difficult.
“They played very direct as well in that game, long balls, tall striker. It was not easy for him but he dealt with it so well.”
Henderson and Van Dijk are playing leading roles in Liverpool’s bid to re-write the record books in 2019-20, with global success having been enjoyed for the first time in the club’s illustrious history.
A commanding Dutch defender added: “We are the first Liverpool team that have won it so we can be very proud of that and hopefully more to come.
“To be out there, to start a tournament you want to finish as the winner and that’s what we did. We are very happy about that.
“Obviously it’s something special. We got what we came here for. We gave everything that we had.
“We had Flamengo fans next to our hotel and they were partying the whole time as well. We had already a feeling. I know how big Flamengo is as a club.
"We knew Brazil was living for them to win this. So I enjoyed the atmosphere, I enjoyed the passion they had. They made it tough for us.”