‘Liverpool icons’ – Jordan Henderson pays tribute to departing stars

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Saturday afternoon’s fixture at Anfield is the last for Liverpool quartet James Milner, Roberto Firmino, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Naby Keita.

All four have played their part in the Reds success story over the past few seasons and captain, Jordan Henderson, has rightly lauded the contribution that each has made.

“Given this is my final column of the season, I have to use these pages to acknowledge and celebrate the achievements of players who will rightly be regarded as Liverpool icons for generations to come,’ he wrote in the matchday programme for the game against Aston Villa, cited by the Liverpool ECHO.

“Naby Keita is a cult figure with our fans and I can tell you the affection for him in the dressing room is just as big. His smile lights up the AXA Training Centre. As a person he is extremely humble and gentle. As a player he is one of the most technically gifted I have ever trained with. His quality is a joke.

“[…] Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is a person I’ve known for a very long time. We were together in the England camp on the day he signed for Liverpool and there is a photo from that evening where we have a big hug just after he’s put pen to paper. I was so excited that we’d persuaded him to come and all these years later it’s clear both sides made the right decision.

“I know the last couple of seasons will have been tough for Ox, in terms of not getting as many minutes as he will have wanted. Nothing can diminish the role he has played in this club’s rise and resurgence, though. The 2017-18 season was the one where we all, collectively, found our belief.

“[…] What can I say about Bobby Firmino that I haven’t said before? I’ve done nothing but praise this guy since he first walked into Melwood back in 2015. It’s so difficult to do justice in words.

“I think I can speak for all of the players when I say that to have had the opportunity to play alongside this guy has been a privilege. He’s unique. There’s no reference point when it comes to comparing Bobby. There’s never been anyone quite like him and I doubt there ever will be again. To be that talented, have that much skill and then to work as hard and smart as he does, is remarkable.

“[…] His name will be sung at Anfield for decades, I’m sure, in the same way fans still celebrate players like Sir Kenny Dalglish and Ian Rush. It’s going to be so strange coming into work next season and him not being here.

“[…] And so to James Milner. I write this knowing that giving Millie praise is one of the most difficult things imaginable. Why? Because he hates it. He hates being the focus.

“[…] He sets the standards. He’s relentless. He makes everything about the collective ahead of the individual. He is the embodiment of the values a successful team needs to have. He’s all of this and more because he’s also an exceptionally gifted footballer.”

Given how things have panned out during this 2022/23 campaign, there was always likely to be a changing of the guard so to speak.

All four players probably haven’t played as much as they’d like this season, with Firmino perhaps having every right to feel the most aggrieved.

As the saying goes, when one door closes another one opens, and there’ll surely be the right opportunities during the summer break for each player to pick the project that appeals to them the most.

From Milner’s point of view, a move to Brighton and Hove Albion would seem to be on the cards, as Sky Sports noted in early May that a deal with the Seagulls was all but done.

Before the match against Villa began on Saturday, the Kop paid tribute to Milner and Firmino with banners unfurled, and the Brazilian was even treated to a rendition of the ‘si, señor’ chant which echoed round the famous old ground.

More Stories Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain James Milner Jordan Henderson Naby Keita Roberto Firmino