Robbie Savage, now playing both starving poacher (he consistently misses the point) and useless gamekeeper (he can't see the wood for the trees) had this to say when it was confirmed that Liverpool had signed Jordan Henderson… "So 20 million gets a young English talent who is an athlete yes ,scores goals not really , decent passer , decent tackler , ok in air , ???"
Apart from demonstrating that Savage is actually a frustrated Welsh speaker who puts his sentences the wrong way around rather than the spawn of a hairdryer and a lump of coal, it also shows that, despite winning a Sony Award, he displays a same lack of peripheral vision as a pundit that he did as a player.
Looking solely at the figures, £14.5m plus David N'Gog might seem inflated for a player with only one senior cap and one whose dwindling form towards the end of the season saw him booed by his own fans. But if you look solely at the figures in anything then most things look overpriced. Look at a pack of fags, seven quid and rising, but the value to the smoker goes well beyond a fiver and two nuggets. Similarly, the reasons Liverpool have signed Jordan Henderson are myriad and that is why the numbers only matter to keyboard warriors and people outside of Anfield.
The transfer strategy set out by NESV, Comolli and Dalglish demands three things of the target - being young, talented and with a potential resale value. Despite the carping about the price and his recent lack of form, Henderson fits the bill. He is also English and although his passport isn't a prerequisite, his age guarantees that he will also comply with the new Premier League home-grown rule that comes into effect this August. His passport also dictates that his price will be higher - Lescott, Milner and Smalling are all recent examples of this and Jack Rodwell, at a similar place in his career to Henderson, is also being talked about in the £20 million range.
He is not a knee-jerk signing to appease supporters and he will not be asked, like he unfairly was at Sunderland, to carry the team
There is also the talent gap at Liverpool to consider. Despite the emergence of Kelly, Robinson, Flanagan and Spearing, there is a noticeable gap in talent between the ages of 19-22 at Liverpool, a hangover from the policy that saw Liverpool ship in legions of young foreign players while Steve Heighway was in charge of the academy. Two, three, four or five years down the line, players like Connor Coady, Raheem Sterling, Thomas Ince and any of the other dozen or so prospects who fill the England (and Spanish) youth teams will be ready to join Henderson, a player with nearly 100 senior appearances under his belt, in the first team.
Dissenters have also spoken about where Henderson will fit in at Liverpool, with central midfield being one area where, even with the departures of Alonso and Mascherano still felt, Liverpool are well-stocked. Henderson, clearly, is the player Dalglish thinks will be the long-term replacement for Steven Gerrard. Athletic, leggy and commanding at his best, he might not be a ready-made replacement but has shown that, when he is in the company of better players, he thrives.
His performances against Man City, Manchester United and Chelsea early last season led to his call-up to the national team and his statistics for England at age group level are as good as they come. He averages a goal a game for the Under-21s and will be a key player at the European Championships. One of the main reasons the deal was done so quickly is that Liverpool feared his stock rising over the coming weeks and didn’t want to be drawn into a lengthy battle for his signature. And, no disrespect meant here, but he will train with better players at Liverpool than he did at Sunderland.
So Henderson is good young English player who will not only be groomed for the future but will be able to compete for places with Lucas, Meireles and Spearing come August. He is not a knee-jerk signing to appease supporters and he will not be asked, like he unfairly was at Sunderland, to carry the team. Any business model worth its salt will have a one, three, five and ten year plan and the good news for Liverpool supporters is that, should he improve, Henderson is, alongside Carroll and Suarez, a player who can be part of each stage of that business plan.
As Jim Boardman pointed out on Twitter, Liverpool have essentially swapped Torres and N’Gog for Carroll and Henderson and made a profit of £2m. After years of poor signings, taking a punt on players with exotic sounding names and essentially having no strategy beyond the immediate, the signing of Henderson is yet another reason why Liverpool are in capable hands.
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