Happy birthday, Jordan Henderson!
The Liverpool captain turned 29 years old on Monday, just over two weeks after lifting the European Cup at the Wanda Metropolitano stadium in Madrid.
Henderson is an example to aspiring footballers everywhere - especially those who doubt themselves or may have been written off by someone.
If you’d said a few years back that Henderson would be a Champions League-winning captain with Liverpool by 2019, the vast majority of people would have called you crazy.
But the Sunderland-born midfielder never once thought about giving up - and, over time, managed to prove all of his doubters wrong.
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Sir Alex Ferguson was one of Henderson’s first critics.
The Manchester United legend, who is probably the greatest manager in football history, decided against signing Henderson in 2011 after noticing a potential problem with his running style.
“We looked at Jordan Henderson a lot and Steve Bruce was unfailingly enthusiastic about him,” Fergie wrote in his 2013 autobiography.
“Against that we noticed that Henderson runs from his knees, with a straight back, while the modern footballer runs from his hips.
“We thought his gait might cause him problems later in his career.”
After joining Liverpool in 2011, many people said Henderson wasn’t good enough for the Reds over the next few seasons.
As recently as December 2017, former Liverpool midfielder Didi Hamann told reporters: “I think he's a good player. Whether he is a Liverpool captain, I'll leave that to other people.”
Two months later, in February 2018, Henderson was criticised by the man he succeeded as Liverpool skipper, Steven Gerrard, for playing too safe.
“Sometimes Jordan plays the easy or safe pass when sometimes I think he has got that little bit more in his locker,” the Anfield hero said, per the Daily Mail, after a Champions League clash between Liverpool and Porto.
“He can open a defence up and he has got a decent range of passing but at times I think he does (play it too safe).”
Henderson may not have even had a second season at Anfield if Brendan Rodgers had got his way in the summer of 2012.
The Northern Irish coach wanted to swap Henderson for Fulham’s Clint Dempsey, who was one of the Premier League’s most in-form attacking midfielders at the time.
"Brendan called me in and said “Listen, this is the offer” and he asked me what I thought," Henderson told the Daily Mail.
"It implied to me that he would let me leave and it was up to me. I went back to my room. I shed a few tears. I ended up crying a little bit because it hurt so much. I had the game that night to think about it as well.
"I spoke to my agent and told him what had happened and I said I didn’t want to go. I wanted to stay and fight and try and improve and try to prove the manager wrong. My agent agreed. I spoke to my dad. He was gutted but he backed my decision to stay and fight.
"From that point, I just kept my head down. I knew I wouldn’t get as much game time as I wanted but I still had faith. I was young enough to get my head down, keep working hard, do my extra bits and prove them wrong and I feel I managed to do that by the time Brendan left. There are always those moments in football — and life in general — which can decide the path and the route you go down. For me, it was never an option to leave."
Again, without that ultra-determined attitude, Henderson probably would have sunk at Anfield a long time ago.
Also in 2012, Liverpool’s former director of football Damien Comolli was sacked by the club, in part for his decision to sign Henderson.
“I remember the day I was sacked, the owners told me, Jordan Henderson what a massive mistake it was,” he told talkSPORT earlier this year. That was about the only thing they told me.”
Fast-forward seven years and Comolli is now owed a big apology.
As is Henderson - by many, many people.