Jordan Henderson has enjoyed his four years at Liverpool so much that he is about to sign up for five more and, given his transformation from £20m dud to captain-in-waiting between 2011 and 2015, the potential for growth by 2020 has few limits.
Working on the assumption that he will see out this new contract once signed – which admittedly is quite a leap given current transfer market trends – news.ladbrokes has helped the midfielder plot out what he must strive to achieve in this period:
These are so-called because most of the work is complete: the £100,000-a-week deal is seemingly a delivery of biros to Melwood shy of completion, and he has borrowed Steven Gerrard’s favourite bit of armwear so often this season that it will be shocking if he doesn’t become the permanent owner.
A straightforward off-field ambition to accompany these is to build on his most high-profile sponsorship gig to date shilling deodorant in a not-quite-critically-acclaimed TV advert with further endorsements.
Getting hold of some silverware has to be Henderson’s biggest priority because, while he has a medal proclaiming him a 2011/12 League Cup victor, he was subbed off less than an hour into the final as Liverpool trailed Championship club Cardiff. Two years seems a fair timescale to tick this box.
Another staple for anyone serious about acquiring Anfield legend status is finding a way to royally rile Everton. Luis Suarez had his iconic dive in front of David Moyes. Steven Gerrard decided that over a decade outshining the neighbours wasn’t enough, so fired a hat-trick past them in 2012. Henderson needs to suss out what his legacy moment will be, and can have until 2018 to execute it.
Finally, for all the tactical awareness and obscene energy levels, the 24-year-old isn’t outstanding at any specific skill, so should graft towards becoming a double-figure scorer. He actually set this target for 2014/15 but, though it has been his most productive yet with seven (six in the league), might have to wait a year to nail it.
While Gerrard’s critics are destined to remember him for his costly slip against Chelsea as Liverpool threatened to win their maiden title last term, a defining image for his admirers is him smooching a camera in celebration at Old Trafford as he did after goals in two separate triumphs there.
Henderson has never netted against the 20-time champions so is unlikely to replicate Stevie G any time soon, but as his goal-grabbing game develops, so too do his chances of silencing nineteen-twentieths of the Theatre of Dreams.
Having been afforded a taste of the Champions League, it is essential that the Wearsider returns to the competition as quickly as possible, and gets to experience the knockout phase soon after.
It is a 13/2 shot that Liverpool finish in the top four, so 2016/17 appears to be the earliest that they will next make the group stage. Springtime two-legged combat – the fabled “famous European nights at Anfield” – need to make a comeback either in that campaign or the one after.
These ones are fairly self-explanatory. If Henderson can somehow oversee Liverpool’s coronation as six-time champions of Europe by 2020, he will be rivalling Gerrard in the idol rankings. If he captains their first English title-winning side since 1990, he will sprint past the home-grown hero.
In terms of personal honours, becoming a PFA Premier League Team of the Year regular is probably a more realistic initial aspiration for the midfielder, who has never been included before.
The PFA Player of the Year award is typically a forward-and-winger fest, but there have been two Liverpool winners in nine years, while John Terry broke the trends when he skippered Chelsea to their first Premier League title in 2004/05, so it isn’t impossible.
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