Former Liverpool director of football Damien Comolli claims signing Jordan Henderson cost him his job.
Henderson joined the Reds in a £20million deal from Sunderland in 2011, but struggled for form in his debut season at Anfield.
However, the midfielder was appointed Liverpool captain in 2015 and has played a crucial part in two Premier League campaigns, including the most recent one where they missed out on the title by a point.
Comolli, who was also responsible for signing flops Andy Carroll, Stewart Downing and Charlie Adam, was proven right about Henderson as he led the club to victory in the 2019 Champions League final at Tottenham’s expense and then the Super Cup by beating Chelsea on penalties.
When discussing the reasoning behind signing Henderson, Comolli told The Independent: “It was a mix of four different factors.
“The first one, when we looked at his fitness data it was absolutely out of this world. That was very important, to know that he could match the intensity that physically Liverpool should play at.
“Secondly, when we looked at his technical and tactical data, he was doing things at Sunderland that were as good as some of the top midfielders in the Premier League.
“The third aspect was live scouting, we all watched him, all came back very enthusiastic about what we saw.
“And the fourth aspect is the personality. We made a lot of enquiries about what type of individual he was, his behaviour, his obsession for improvement.
“They talk about marginal gains, with Jordan every day it is ‘how can I improve, how can I gain five per cent of marginal gains?’
“The other aspect of his personality, when you spend a bit of time with him, you can straightaway tell about his leadership skills, his determination, his commitment. Everything you see on the pitch.”
Comolli was sacked by Liverpool in April 2012, less than a year after Henderson had joined the club.
He added: “I remember the day I was sacked, the owners told me, Jordan Henderson what a massive mistake it was. That was about the only thing they told me.”
Liverpool have had much more success in the transfer market in recent times, signing Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah, Alisson and Virgil van Dijk.
And Henderson has been vital to Liverpool’s rise.
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Comolli added: “I am obviously very pleased because Jordan played a key part to what is happening at Liverpool.
“The second leg of the [Champions League] semi-final [against Barcelona] is just… typical Jordan Henderson.
“The energy he brought to the team, the determination, the commitment, refusing to give up, refusing to lose. So when you put everything together, we were convinced.”
When Liverpool won the Champions League in June, the skipper revealed he wanted James Milner and Jurgen Klopp to lift the trophy with him.
“That night was not about me lifting the trophy,” he said. “I felt me, Millie and the gaffer should have lifted it together.
“It was not about me standing at the front lifting the trophy, it was more about the team.
“When I look back and see the faces of the lads, that’s what means more to me.
“I think everyone looks at the captain to lift the trophy and everyone speaks highly of the captain when you win a competition, but if you rewind to a year or two ago, people would have been criticising the way I am and asking if I should be captain or not.”
And ahead of the Super Cup, Adrian Durham suggested some fans may even view Henderson as a better skipper than Anfield icon Steven Gerrard.
Speaking on Drivetime, he said: “Obviously there was a comparison when he became captain it was after Gerrard had finished and everybody thought it was impossible – how do you take over from Steven Gerrard?
“But I think there’s a case to say that if it wasn’t for the fact Steven Gerrard was Liverpool born and bred, people might consider Jordan Henderson to be a better captain and a better leader.
“Leadership isn’t really about huddles and rallying cries, it’s about actually doing it unnoticed.
“You’ve got three or four of the best players in the world right now at Liverpool, in Allison, [Sadio] Mane, [Mohamed] Salah and [Virgil] van Dijk and they all look up to Henderson and he commands their respect,” he added pointing out that on the best night of football at Anfield, Henderson was man of the match as Barcelona were humbled in the Champions League semi-final.