Premier League: Wolverhampton Wanderers v Liverpool
Kick-off: 8pm. Venue: Molineux. On TV: Live on BT Sport 1.
Jürgen Klopp believes greater self-confidence and the prestige of lifting Liverpool’s sixth European crown has elevated Jordan Henderson’s game this season.
The Liverpool captain has been in fine form for the runaway Premier League leaders, who visit Wolves on Thursday seeking a 14th successive league win, with his contribution receiving wider acclaim inside Anfield of late.
Klopp insists the midfielder was “exceptional” last season and has further room for improvement at the age of 29. But he admits Henderson needed to realise his own quality before reaching his current higher level.
The Liverpool manager said: "The self-awareness (has changed). The natural quality was always there. I knew Hendo before I came here as a proper box-to-box player who can make the difference. Going back four-and-a-half years when I arrived here, it was the first year Hendo was captain after Steven Gerrard. As I've always said, it's the most unthankful job in the world. People maybe needed to get used to that, that somebody who is not Steven Gerrard has the captain's armband and he didn't get the credit he would have deserved.
“But since I am here Hendo has played 90 per cent of the games he was available, if not more, for good reasons. He was 25 when I came here, it’s the best age to improve, the best age to make the next steps. You get used to a lot of things around you and now you can really concentrate on football and your development, your development as a team and what you can deliver for that. That’s what happened. He is now calmer in certain situations. His self-awareness, his self-confidence grew again from a proper level already.”
Henderson is on course to lift the Champions League, Uefa Super Cup, Club World Cup and Premier League trophies inside 12 months as Liverpool captain and Klopp believes last season’s European triumph in Madrid provided a significant boost to the midfielder’s confidence.
He added: "That helped for sure. No-one can take that away from him. I had a similar situation with Sebastian Kehl at Dortmund. He became the only captain in the history of the club to lift the Bundesliga trophy and the cup trophy cause we won the double. That stays forever and that's cool.
“But those are the nice moments. There are a lot of moments around for a skipper where you have to do a lot of things you probably didn’t expect before you got the armband. But he feels comfortable in the situation and gets sensational help from Millie (James Milner), Adam (Lallana), Gini (Wijnaldum) and Virg (van Dijk). We have these very experienced players who work very well together. Alone as a captain in the team you have no chance. If you have the right players around you, it makes the job much easier.” – Guardian