Could Jordan Henderson Be On His Way to Celtic Park?

Image for Could Jordan Henderson Be On His Way to Celtic Park?

Summer 2023 was all about the size, scope, and profile of players heading to the Saudi Pro League. The motivation was to embark on the country’s new mission to elevate their domestic game – inspire and improve the Saudi people’s grassroots football infrastructure, creating a pipeline of talent which would eventually improve their national team.

While international attention and profile are helpful, it never really appeared to be the be-all-and-end-all. Cristiano Ronaldo was already plying his trade there, scoring plenty of the goals he struggled to during his last months at Old Trafford. Soon, many ageing stars joined him.

The Departures… and Returns?

One of the most notable to up-sticks and head to the desert was then-Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson. He left the Reds as a very decorated player, choosing to try a new challenge after a 2022/23 campaign that highlighted the team’s need for new energy in the middle of midfield. Steven Gerrard’s call to join him at Al-Ettifaq FC – an ever-present club in the Saudi Pro League but whose only successes came in the 1980s – proved too much to keep him at Liverpool, right when it appeared Liverpool were very ready to move on without him.

But now, after 17 matches, it appears Henderson wants out – along with others. What options are available to the England international, though, as he looks to rejoin European football at the calibre he needs to be at in order to play for his country?

Celtic are just one club. The perennial title contenders can bring the Englishman more titles, and a look at the BetUK odds for a Celtic title win puts The Bhoys as favourites, ahead of Rangers, meaning he could well spend only half a season in Glasgow and be rewarded with a medal. And then there’s next season’s Champions League campaign that could be attractive too. However, does it make sense for them to sign him – if they can afford to sign anyone?

The Hypothetical: Henderson at The Bhoys

Jordan Henderson’s recent playstyle has evolved into a deeper-lying dictator with flourishes of the all-action box-to-box midfielder he once was. With Liverpool, he saw a lot of the ball when operating in the early phases of build-up, and he proved very efficient at winning the ball high to sustain attacks once it was turned over in the final third. So would his style plug any gaps in Celtic’s current XI?

Progressive Passer

Celtic don’t have a progressive passer in midfield to the calibre of Henderson. Callum McGregor is a conservative passer. Matt O’Riley’s presence is impeccable in the final third – creating chances and scoring goals – but is absent (by design) in build-up. The majority of progression comes from the full-backs: Greg Taylor and Alistair Johnston. The Hoops find a lot of joy through this pattern. Taylor and Johnston are among the league’s best in moving the ball up the field by passing.

Centrally, though, Celtic struggle. Henderson’s ability to dictate play and move the ball forward would be welcome, while still possessing enough skill as a carrier to give the team momentum and drive with a dribble too.

Pressing and Defensive Acumen

Henderson is older now. The ground he can still cover is notable, but the speed at which he does it, obviously, has decreased. His effectiveness in the press during his final months at Liverpool declined dramatically – but he did that in the context of a team that was struggling. His performances were a contribution to and a symptom of the general slump.

Celtic have a strong defence. They’ve conceded the second-least goals in the division, only behind Rangers. The aforementioned midfield duo of McGregor and O’Riley offer a good deal defensively in the midfield, meaning that Henderson’s inclusion could well be felt.

The Verdict

Henderson’s return to European football will likely reverberate more for the narratives surrounding Saudi football more so than for Henderson as a player. He’s post-peak, trying to course-correct his career in its final stages. Celtic could give him a season or two of Champions League football before signing off his career and retiring. But, for The Hoops, it might be better to let other interested parties like Ajax take pole position. But, who knows who matters most – Henderson joined Gerrard in Saudi Arabia, and Brendan Rodgers may want to replicate that connection and bring the Geordie midfielder to Scotland.

Image Source:

Share this article