Raheem this, Raheem that. The past few weeks have been filled with stories of Sterling’s future, with ‘will he, wont he’ questions and interviews having stoked the fire to the point that the flames have roared onto every back page and each corner of the internet.
Although the 20-year-old is a vital cog and is likely to get better and better through the years, there’s another contract situation rumbling away in the corridors of Anfield. Jordan Henderson – captain in waiting – has rejected offers already and the latest reports suggest that moneybags Manchester City are circling.
We at FFC Towers believe that the 24-year-old may well be the more important issue – his contract expires next year – and here are FIVE reasons why…
With Steven Gerrard due to head off into retirement… (MLS with LA Galaxy), the Reds will be without their on-field leader. Although ‘Gerro’ has been a shadow of his former self this season, his influence is still key, so replacing him with a player capable of taking on the responsibility is vital. Although Henderson is not yet of the calibre of Gerrard as a player, he looks set to take on the armband – he’s second in command now – and his performances in the absence of the ageing skipper have been impressive.
Aside from Henderson there are few other options Brendan Rodgers can go for, with martin Skrtel, perhaps, the only alternative. But with the Slovakian now 30, Henderson is a better option going forward.
Henderson is currently Liverpool’s joint highest league goalscorer with six. That may say more about the Reds than it does the midfielder this term, but it also makes it clear that he’s growing in terms of influence in the final third. The ex-Sunderland man stepped up to net a consolation penalty at Arsenal over the weekend, but efforts against Manchester City, Burnley and Swansea of late have been much more important, and have shown how he’s coming on in terms of stepping up and taking on the responsibility.
When Rodgers came in in 2012, Henderson looked to be on his way out. A move to Fulham as a makeweight in a deal for Clint Dempsey was out forward, with the North East-born man having endured a tough debut campaign after his big money move in the Kenny Dalglish era.
Many players would have shut up shop and drifted away, but Henderson appears to have used the low as the catalyst for his rise, with the 24-year-old having forced his way into Rodgers’ Reds to make himself, arguably, one of the most vital members of the Merseysiders’ XI.
Xabi Alonso, Javier Mascherano, Fernando Torres, Luis Suarez… Liverpool fans won’t want to admit it, but their club are becoming a selling side. Letting Henderson join a rival side would be, perhaps, the biggest of all the blows, with the aforementioned quartet having at least switched to Spain or developed into the punch line of many jokes (Torres) following a record breaking deal.
Although Raheem Sterling and Daniel Sturridge grab the headlines, Henderson’s energy and desire in the middle of the pitch are vital to the Rodgers way of playing. His infectious willingness to do the unsung jobs rarely gets the plaudits, but when he was shifted to wing-back at Arsenal, it was clear that the Reds were missing his presence.