Jordan Henderson has become the “complete midfielder”, says Danny Murphy, with the Liverpool captain having proved his worth on the back of “unfair” comparisons to Steven Gerrard.
The hard-working midfielder arrived at Anfield in 2011 when a Reds legend was at the peak of his powers.
He was forced to operate in Gerrard’s shadow before eventually inheriting the armband when the former England skipper headed to MLS with the LA Galaxy.
Filling such sizeable boots was never going to be easy for a player cut from different cloth, but Henderson has become a vital part of domestic and international plans.
Murphy has paid homage to the consistency of an undervalued 29-year-old, telling BBC Sport: “It has not always been plain sailing for Henderson at Anfield, and I think he suffered at first from being compared to Steven Gerrard - which was unfair.
“That was an easy thing to say when he signed aged 20 in 2011, because he was a young England midfielder, but he was not like Gerrard, because no-one is.
“It was always going to be impossible for him to live up to that. As a player he is the best he can be, but he will never be able to do the things that Gerrard did.
“Playing alongside Gerrard at first was not very helpful because when you are around one of the best midfielders there has ever been, you are never going to look as good as him.
“It is only since Gerrard left in 2015, and the team started evolving under Jurgen Klopp, that people have been able to see Henderson's own qualities.
“At 29, he has grown into a complete midfielder, and is a fantastic example of someone making the absolute maximum out of their ability.”
Murphy added: “He used to get criticised for making too many sideways passes but it was not about direction, it is called playing safe. A lot of midfielders do that when they are trying to establish themselves in a team, or keep their place, because giving the ball away is the worst thing they can do.
“Henderson does not have to worry about his place anymore, because he plays such a vital role in this Liverpool side - well, not just one actually.
“One of the biggest compliments you could pay him is that he nailed down the holding midfielder position and became pivotal there for a while. Then, with Fabinho's emergence, he adapted back to being more of a box-to-box player.
“While the Brazilian has been injured in the past few weeks, he has gone back to his old position and it has not affected Liverpool at all.
“His versatility is really important for Liverpool but he does not just fill a gap - he brings something to every position he plays.
“He fits perfectly into this Liverpool team and the way they play, and it is the same with England. If he is fit, he will start every game at Euro 2020, because it is not just Klopp who appreciates him.
“Whatever Henderson's numbers are, ultimately he captained the champions of Europe last season and is leading a team that are breaking all sorts of records this time around.
“I think that says more about him than any statistic ever could.”
Henderson has remained a regular for Jurgen Klopp’s Premier League title-chasing outfit in 2019-20, while he can also expect to earn a place in Gareth Southgate’s England squad for Euro 2020.