(Reuters) - Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson has been hailed as the ‘ultimate professional’ by former skipper Steven Gerrard after the midfielder led the Merseyside club to their sixth European Cup.
Liverpool beat Tottenham Hotspur 2-0 in Saturday’s Champions League final to claim their first trophy since the League Cup in 2012 and Gerrard added that he was ‘especially proud’ of Henderson’s refusal to fold in the face of criticism.
Henderson joined Liverpool in 2011 but came close to leaving a year later before finally establishing himself as a first-team regular, replacing the departing Gerrard as club captain in 2015.
“If I had to name someone I regard as the ultimate professional, then Jordan would come right at the top of the list,” Gerrard wrote in a column in the Times newspaper on Tuesday.
“He is selfless, he puts himself at the back of the queue because he looks after everyone else first. He puts Jordan Henderson last.”
Henderson came in for criticism early on in his Liverpool career and former Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson said in his autobiography that he had passed up the chance to sign the midfielder due to concerns over his running style.
“Everyone in football gets doubted,” Gerrard added. “Jordan has had his fair share but he handles it well and the best thing to do is let your football do the talking. That is what he has done, that is what he will continue to do.”
When Juergen Klopp took charge of the club in 2015, a lack of cover in defensive midfield forced him to deploy Henderson in a deeper role but the 28-year-old also made decisive contributions in an advanced position this season.
“He has running power, you can trust him with the ball, has a good range of passing,” Gerrard said. “Over the past few months, (he) has risen to the challenge of pushing Liverpool forward and has come right into top form.”
With Liverpool set to resume their title battle with Premier League champions Manchester City next season, Gerrard said he hoped his former team mate would kick on from winning the Champions League to collect more trophies.
“I am hoping this will become the catalyst for him to lift more trophies above his head,” Gerrard said. I know that is what he wants.”
Reporting by Shubham Kalia in Bengaluru; Editing by Christian Radnedge