Liverpool are aiming to reach the pinnacle of English and European football under “world-class” Jurgen Klopp, according to captain Jordan Henderson.
Klopp’s side take on Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City in a second-versus-third clash in the Premier League on Saturday, with both teams keen to avoid losing further ground on leaders Chelsea.
Liverpool are 18-time English and five-time European champions, but are without a major honour since lifting the 2012 League Cup during Henderson’s first season at Anfield, with final reverses in the same competition against City and in the Europa League versus Sevilla last season denying Klopp silverware in his debut campaign on Merseyside.
The 26-year-old England midfielder has progressed from bit-part player to captain and a central figure in Klopp’s side, providing the defensive midfield foundation for his vibrant attacking team-mates to shine.
“He’s a fantastic manager. A great person. There’s such a good atmosphere in the camp,” Henderson told The Telegraph.
“He’s got a great balance between when to be relaxed and when we need a kick up the backside. We all look up to him.
“The man-management, the tactical stuff is outstanding and we can see the benefit. I’m sure it will just get better and better and he will be very successful.
“Even after a good performance he is always looking at the stuff that we could have done better, to move forward and be successful and try and win trophies. That’s the end goal. That’s what we want.
“A world-class manager coming into the club is a big plus. He knew the size of the club and thought he could make it successful and have an influence and he certainly has done that in a short period of time.
“We have reacted well from the two finals we lost because that can affect teams. Hopefully if we can get in that position again we will have more experience of how it feels when you don’t win and use that.
“We are striving to be the best team in the league and then the best team in Europe. You have to keep wanting more. It’s no good winning one trophy and that’s it. You have to want to improve – I keep saying that and maybe it’s boring – but that’s what it is about.”
Henderson’s most famous near-miss in a Liverpool shirt came with him looking on from the sidelines.
He was sent off during the closing stages of a thrilling 3-2 win over City in April 2014 and Brendan Rodgers’ Reds only won one of the three matches he missed as the Manchester side, then under Manuel Pellegrini, stole the Premier League title on the final day.
“I learnt the hard way,” Henderson said. “I missed out on three crucial games, which was hard to deal with at the time, but you have to learn from those things and move on and set yourself new challenges.
“You can use that as a motivation. But I don’t think you need motivation to win a league or a trophy. It’s every footballer’s dream. It’s why you play football.”
And Henderson believes Klopp’s side compares favourably with the 2013-14 vintage that almost ended Liverpool’s wait to reclaim a status that rested so comfortably with them before the Premier League era.
“Luis [Suarez] would get the headlines and rightly so when he was here, Stevie [Gerrard] also, but I still feel we have got big players in this team,” he added.
“And we are a really close group. We have some unbelievable players, talented players, who can change a game in seconds. Good players – and we’ve also got good people.”
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