Steven Smith: ‘Henderson should return to Liverpool’

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Will Jordan Henderson Return to Anfield?

I would absolutely encourage the former Liverpool skipper, Jordan Henderson, to return to Liverpool, though only in the viewing capacity that recently saw former Anfield legends, Roberto Firmino and Fabinho, take in the 4-2 win over Newcastle. All three of these former Liverpool players departed the Premier League in the summer of 2023, as part of a necessary regeneration of an aging Merseyside squad. The attractiveness of huge contracts that would create generational wealth for their respective families, was understandably too much to turn down, especially in the twilight of their footballing careers.

The backlash and controversy that surrounded the move of Jordan Henderson (to Al-Ettifaq) was intense, with the England’s’ players integrity and previous support of the LGBTQ being called into question. Despite the uneasy reaction, a £13m move was undertaken to the huge spending Saudi Pro League, which saw the former PL player of the year sign on to a rumoured £350k per week contract, that will run until 30th June 2026.

What Now for the Former Liverpool Skipper?

There seemed to be a bitterness in the way by which the former number 14 left the club, with a reluctance to accept that his role would reduce in the next season. The brilliant signing of Dominik Szoboszlai was a clear indictment of what was coming, something that fuelled a sudden move away from the club by Hendo. The former Sunderland man had spent twelve-years as a red (winning nearly everything on offer), therefore, despite any ill feelings at the close of his tenure, his overall affiliation with the reds should remain intact. Despite the adoration that was once felt by his previous manager, Jürgen Klopp, I doubt the German would not risk upsetting the positive outlook that has since been created since.

Under the brilliant leadership of Virgil van Dijk, this new and exciting era must look forwards, no matter how tempting it is to glance back. It would be foolish and close to impossible to see a return for the 33-year-old, essentially as his departure enabled the promise of so many others to finally bloom. The likes of Curtis Jones and Harvey Elliott have risen exponentially this season, which is something that may not have been the case if their former skipper had of remained.

Saudi’s Not So Golden Promise

Something has clearly gone very wrong at Al-Ettifaq in recent months, as the club languish well down the Saudi Pro League table. Their famous manager, Steven Gerrard, is only keeping his current role due to a world-renowned standing in the game.

Despite this fact, results have been horrific Al season long, which will create a time where Stevie is replace. The former Liverpool legend’s own assistant manager, Ian Foster, has now left his side, to take on the managerial position at Plymouth Argyle, just as the walls start to close in. For his club captain, Jordan Henderson, to now be positioning himself for a winter move back to the UK, it seems that reality has finally kicked in for those ex-reds in the Middle East.

Of the Premier League clubs that may hold an interest in a vastly experienced campaigner, Newcastle, Tottenham, and Crystal Palace, may all cast a curious eye in the direction of the 81-cap England international. The level of leadership and experience (he would bring) may benefit each club, as availability to some of their midfielders have lessened throughout the ongoing campaign. Any potential transfer will be met by one huge stumbling block, which will be the money which was laid out Al-Ettifaq FC to secure the ex-red.

The former Champions League winner has a rumoured clause in his contract, directing a good portion of any incoming fee (in the event he was sold) to Liverpool. The whole negotiation and monetary requirements will ward off most suitors, thereby creating a bigger issue for the player. The sudden desire for a return was always something that would eventually come; however, the January process looks somewhat precarious.

England Prospects and Southgate

The upcoming summer will see England participate in the 2024 European Championships, which is being hosted by Germany. Gareth Southgate has an FA contract that runs until December 2024, which means this next tournament could act as his last as the Three Lions manager. The performance of his team will likely decide where his next management post lies, which now is questionable.

Bellingham LFC Henderson Liverpool

A successful and competition winning summer would automatically put the former Middlesborough boss, in the running for the Manchester United hot seat. It is very possible that Erik ten Hag will be relieved of his duties after this season, as new minority owner (and head of football operations), Sir Jim Ratcliffe assesses the Red Devils future. Where once Southgate would surround himself with trusted lieutenants and experienced assets, I believe his final squad may just be filled to the brim with young and explosive talents. I suspect that certain truths have been now laid bare to his vice-captain, Henderson, which may have taken away assurances over his continued selection. The pool of midfielders is expanding this season, with the below all operating in an elite league, to a far greater level that the veteran middle man.

Declan Rice, Trent Alexander Arnold, Jude Bellingham, Kalvin Phillips, Curtis Jones, Morgan Gibbs-White, Harvey Elliott, Cole Palmer, Jacob Ramsay, James Ward-Prowse, James Maddison, Rico Lewis.

I do not know how an underperforming player in the Saudi Pro League could ever be picked ahead of those listed above, which is why there is a last-ditch attempt by the Al-Ettifaq number 10, to return to the English top tier. This may well happen; it just will not happen at Anfield.

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