Liverpool’s Regret? The 2021 Jordan Henderson Contract Extension
The 2021 decision to extend Jordan Henderson’s contract at Liverpool is proving to be one of contention, especially now as he departs for Al Ettifaq with a £12m price tag attached. Chris Bascombe of The Telegraph doesn’t pull any punches when he states that “the folly of extending Henderson’s contract in 2021 has come back to bite Liverpool.”
Henderson’s contract renewal seemed to defy Liverpool’s usually strict and strategic approach to player contracts. Fenway Sports Group (FSG), the club’s owners, famous for their ‘Moneyball’ policy – a methodical and analytical approach to financial decisions. Thus, the commitment to a hefty £200,000 a week for Henderson until 2025 was met with much scepticism.
“The logic of handing a 31-year-old a pay rise to £200,000 a week until 2025 was strenuously argued about internally and externally given all the data suggesting he would become less productive during the course of his four-year term.”
The Ripple Effect
Bascombe highlights how this contract renewal impacted Liverpool’s future strategic decisions. Notably, players like Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane did not receive renewals. Memories of Steven Gerrard’s departure in 2015 were evoked, a time when the club opted for financial reason over emotional attachment.
The analysis doesn’t stop there. Liverpool’s inability to infuse fresh talent into their midfield over the past two seasons has been striking. Bascombe ponders whether retaining Henderson played a part in this delay. He notes that a younger midfielder like Jude Bellingham might have been acquired at a lower price if Henderson had been sold earlier.
“Most supporters agree the tweaking ought to have started a year ago. They certainly would not have needed to sign four midfielders in one window.”
While some decisions now appear ill-timed in hindsight, Jurgen Klopp’s support for Henderson in 2021 is seen as a gesture of respect for the player’s years of service. Klopp’s known empathy with his players, coupled with Henderson’s unwavering dedication to the club, led to the controversial contract extension.
Yet, as Henderson prepares to exit, there won’t be the expected guard of honour at Anfield. Bascombe hints at a sentiment of regret, suggesting that Henderson might have preferred a different farewell, reminiscent of the goodbyes given to legends like Milner and Firmino.
“Exiting now means there will be no final guard of honour at Anfield… Even the most decorated and committed footballer must sacrifice emotional goodbyes when the club lets them go on their own lucrative terms.”
Liverpool’s decision to renew Henderson’s contract in 2021 will likely be debated for years. It raises questions about the balance between loyalty to players and the financial imperatives of modern football. Whether this was a sentimental gesture or a miscalculation, Liverpool will surely reflect on this chapter as they navigate future decisions.