Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp launched a passionate defence of captain Jordan Henderson by insisting the midfielder has the hardest job in football following in the footsteps of Steven Gerrard.
There has been a growing undercurrent of discontent among some sections of the fan base about the England international’s value to the team, and his omission for Wednesday’s 7-0 Champions League win over Spartak Moscow only fed that narrative.
Klopp, however, insists Henderson has earned his place as captain and deserves to be treated with more respect.
“I live in this city and I get it a little bit sometimes how people are talking about it,” said Klopp.
“Being the skipper of Liverpool is the hardest job in world football because the man who had the armband before was Steven Gerrard. Sorry, he finished playing football, we cannot get him back.
“I want everyone to respect that Jordan Henderson is our skipper because he deserved it and he is the right man for the job. That doesn’t mean he can play all the games.
“Sorry. He is such an important player for us – I don’t get why I have to say that.
“I only spoke about it because I knew people would say, ‘Oh yes, fantastic game (against Spartak). Jordan didn’t play so make a sh** story of it’.
“They are sh** stories. Actually it is no story apart from in England and especially in Liverpool it is a story. Now I have said a little bit about it, the story is done.”
Henderson has undoubtedly had a testing time filling the huge hole left by Gerrard, the club’s inspirational captain for most of his 17-year career at Anfield, who won, among other things, the Champions League and FA Cup.
He is subjected to far more scrutiny than any other player but some of the criticism levelled at him has been over the top.
Klopp, who has already said Henderson will start Sunday’s Merseyside derby at home to Everton, insists he cannot be treated as a special case because he is captain and does need to be part of the rotation to ensure he stays injury-free.
“I am not sure if it is English or old-fashioned but even a captain cannot play all the time, that’s how it is. You cannot bring him only because of the armband,” he added.
“I made a decision for this (Spartak) game and it made sense in this kind of week that you need players on the pitch who know 100 per cent about the derby and what it is about – that makes sense.”
Left-back Alberto Moreno will miss the derby due to an ankle injury sustained against Spartak, with fears he could be out until the new year, but one player certain to start is Philippe Coutinho after his first hat-trick for the club in midweek.
Speculation about a renewed bid from Barcelona continues to emerge after their failure to sign him in the summer despite the playmaker handing in a transfer request.
That dominated much of August and although Coutinho’s improving form is only fuelling the story, Klopp is keen to avoid another long-running saga.
“No one who has influence on it came to me so far and said, ‘Phil will be away in January’,” he said.
“I am completely fine with the situation. We had this big story in the summer and I have no desire to have it again from now until the end of January because we play around 20 games in this period.
“I try to say nothing about that and then on January 31 we can shake hands and say what a wonderful time we had together, the journalists and me.”