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In many ways, the contract impasse between Jordan Henderson and Liverpool is predictable.
A hugely influential player, who is undervalued compared to many of his team-mates, and who at 31 knows that he must maximise that value in one final deal at the peak of his powers.
On the flip side, a pair of directors negotiating that contract, in part-owner Mike Gordon and Sporting Director Michael Edwards, who see a player suffering regular injuries recently, at an age which makes them shy away from committing to long term deals.
It has all the hallmarks of a soap opera…but with a key subplot that could yet threaten to overtake the central issue in terms of impact at the club.
Henderson is club captain for a reason: Jurgen Klopp not only trusts him, but relies on him to set the tone at the club, with a professionalism that has played such a big part in delivering honours.
Klopp and Henderson form a strong bond at Liverpool
(Image: Getty Images)
It is known already that Klopp desperately wants his skipper to stay, just as he wanted Gini Wijnaldum to stay last season…only to see his key midfielder allowed to leave on a free contract at the end of the campaign.
To lose one key foundation on which the success of the club is built is cause for concern enough to Klopp. But to lose two would be carelessness that would bring into question the manager’s authority and influence.
Klopp is currently contracted until 2024, and he is naturally keen to be backed to deliver more honours during that time. Talks are underway with the likes of Mohamed Salah, Virgil van Dijk, Alisson and Fabinho, as the club attempts to secure the heart of the team on long term deals.
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But Henderson is different – chiefly because he wants to avoid the situation Wijnaldum found himself in, as ever more terse negotiations failed to deliver an agreement over two painful years and he departed on a free transfer at the end of it.
Wijnaldum was 30 when he left, a year younger than Henderson now, and had been virtually ever-present in a disjointed season where the Reds had lost so many younger players to long term injuries.
Klopp wanted to keep Wijnaldum, but the club refused to meet his demands
(Image: Pool via REUTERS)
And yet there was a blunt refusal to meet his demands for the security of a long term contract and a reflection of his importance to a club, where stars such as Salah and Van Dijk are already paid in excess of £250,000 a week.
Henderson is also paid far less than some of the biggest stars, despite his role as the leader at the club, but crucially, still has two years left to run on his current deal.
Gordon and Edwards, ideally, would want him to see out that deal, and then deliver short term contracts depending on his fitness and appearances. But Henderson has now made clear he doesn’t want that.
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After talks stalled seemingly indefinitely, he seems now to have made clear that he doesn’t want to drag things out. Instead he wants an indication from Liverpool on their definitive position.
If they don’t want to deliver the security of a longer term contract, then he will ask them to confirm so, allowing him to talk to clubs who ARE prepared to offer that, including PSG and Atletico.
It makes sense for Henderson at the age of 31, where he can realistically demand one last final contract that reflects his position as one of the best and most influential midfielders in world football.
He wants to stay, of course, but not in the current situation. And that could yet impact on Klopp.
If the manager demands he is kept at the club, rather than be sold this summer – a scenario not beyond the bounds of possibility – then it will be fascinating to see if the board submits.
If they allow Henderson to leave just as they did Wijnaldum, then it will place Klopp in a potentially difficult and uncomfortable position, and his own future could quite possibly be cast into doubt…
As the backlash over the doomed Super League moves proved, when Klopp voiced his dissent, Liverpool fans would not stand for that.
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