Virgil van Dijk Praises 'Fantastic' Liverpool Captain Jordan Henderson

Tom Sunderland@@TomSunderland_Featured ColumnistDecember 23, 2019

Liverpool's Dutch defender Virgil van Dijk (L) celebrates with Liverpool's English midfielder Jordan Henderson after he scores the team's third goal during the English Premier League football match between Liverpool and Norwich City at Anfield in Liverpool, north west England on August 9, 2019. (Photo by Oli SCARFF / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or 'live' services. Online in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No video emulation. Social media in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No use in betting publications, games or single club/league/player publications. /         (Photo credit should read OLI SCARFF/AFP via Getty Images)
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Virgil van Dijk has hailed Liverpool team-mate Jordan Henderson as a fantastic club captain who always puts the squad's needs above his own. 

Henderson, 29, covered for Van Dijk in central defence during his absence at the 2019 FIFA Club World Cup semi-finals. The UEFA Champions League holders went on to beat Flamengo 1-0 in the final and ended the year lifting another piece of silverware.

The former Sunderland star is enjoying arguably the best form of his career in his ninth season at Anfield, and Van Dijk lauded his widespread influence on and off the pitch, per Goal's Chris Burton:

"He's our captain. That's what we all respect. He's having a fantastic season so far. 

"He's been doing fantastically whether he's filling in for Fabinho at the moment or he's playing as a right midfielder where he's giving assists and stuff.

"He has been fantastic, in and out of the pitch he is very important for us whether he plays or not. We all respect him on that level."

Henderson—who joined Liverpool in 2011, just before his 21st birthday—has come in for scrutiny as captain in the past. Critics have argued his form didn't warrant a starting place given the other options at Jurgen Klopp's disposal.

The club's rise under Klopp has also coincided with Henderson leading the team during what will surely be his prime years. 

Former Sunderland team-mate David Meyler listed Henderson among elite captain company after following up this year's Champions League triumph with Liverpool's first Club World Cup:

DM @DavidMeyler

Fernardo Hierro, Carlos Puyol, Philip Lahm, Andres Iniesta, Ilker Casillas, Sergio Ramos & Jordan Henderson. Say what you want but he’s among that list of captains to lift the Champions League, Super Cup & Club World Cup in the same calendar year. Incredible stat. Happy Monday.

The Merseysiders beat Monterrey 2-1 in the tournament's semi-final thanks to a Roberto Firmino winner in injury time, and Van Dijk was impressed with Henderson's display in defence:

"He was outstanding when he played centre-half. I was really proud of him. I told him after the game. He has got a lot more respect for what we do in the back as well.

"It's not easy and I know sometimes we make it look a bit easy but it's difficult. They played very direct as well in that game, long balls, tall striker. It was not easy for him but he dealt with it so well."

It wasn't just Van Dijk who praised the captain's efforts after Liverpool rounded off a prolific 2019 with a final trophy in Doha, Qatar:

Kristian Walsh @Kristian_Walsh

We need to talk about Jordan Henderson. He’s captain of the European champions and World champions. Could be captain of the Premier League champions. I don’t think people appreciate that enough. They really should do.

Ian Doyle @IanDoyleSport

Roberto Firmino got the man of the match for the final, Mohamed Salah the man of the tournament. But really both awards should have gone to this guy. He’s now lifted as many trophies as #LFC skipper as Steven Gerrard did 🔴 https://t.co/tfrTj18ddi

The utility player offered a diverse range of skills even in his early days at the Stadium of Light, but Henderson has at times been unfairly judged for his shortcomings while filling less natural roles.

It's helped his case that a more capable squad has gradually been built under Klopp, but Fox presenter Daniel Garb dismissed those who failed to see the captain's value:

Daniel Garb @DanielGarb

@RileyBev There is a direct correlation between people who can’t spot an effective footballer and those who don’t/havent rate/rated Jordan Henderson.

Henderson has made 24 appearances this season—including the UEFA Super Cup and Community Shield—and has a contract until June 2023.

Klopp's men are 10 points clear at the top of the Premier League as they prepare to visit second place Leicester City on Boxing Day.