'Over the hill' or 'logical signing'? – The Dutch perspective on Jordan Henderson's Ajax transfer

Jordan Henderson is officially an Ajax player.

The former Liverpool captain's move to Amsterdam was confirmed on Thursday, with the 33-year-old making a hasty exit from the Saudi Pro League just half a season on from his £12m arrival.

Much of the UK-media focus has been on the fallout from Henderson's ill-fated spell at Al Ettifaq, while there have been reports that the England international – whose reputation took a hit with the controversial move – wont receive any of the £350k-a-week wages he signed up for in Saudi Arabia.

However, over in the Netherlands there is a feeling of positivity about the arrival of Henderson.

There is a buzz about the England international in Amsterdam and the new No. 6's shirt has reportedly become the fastest selling in Ajax's history.

Anfield Watch spoke to Imre Himmelbauer, editor at Football Transfers NL, to get the lowdown on what Henderson's signing means in the Netherlands.

A 'pretty logical' signing

How and why did Ajax end up going for Jordan Henderson this January?

When Fabrizio Romano announced Ajax were seriously looking into signing Henderson, it came as a big shock here.

The signing, however, is pretty logical if you look at the current situation the club is in. Ajax are in dire need of many reinforcements after their disastrous transfer business in the last two summers, but a new number six became their biggest priority this window. Slightly ironic, considering it is one of the positions where Ajax have the most depth, but both Silvano Vos and Sivert Mannsverk have been injured for the biggest part of the season.

As such, John van ‘t Schip has had to rely on summer signing Benjamin Tahirovic, who has shown signs of promise, but has been woefully inconsistent, with his errors costing his team multiple points.

Ajax are also a very inexperienced team. Very few players know what it’s like to be at the biggest club in one of the biggest European leagues, let alone what it’s like to perform in European competitions. Henderson has shown to be a true professional and has obviously won big competitions multiple times. Many believe that the 33-year old will provide stability and experience and will try to improve the mentality of the younger players at the club.

The man to turn things around?

Why has there been so much hype surrounding the signing of Henderson?

The main reason for it is most probably his trophy cabinet. Henderson was obviously part of one of the most successful Liverpool teams in the past decade, winning the Premier League, the Champions League and being named FWA Player of the Year in 2020.

© Propaganda - Jordan Henderson

As such, there is a very strong belief amongst a large group of fans that Henderson will be able to get Ajax out of the dreadful situation they are in.

They believe he is exactly what the club need, both as a player providing stability in the centre of the park and as a personality who has the experience to guide and improve the younger players in Amsterdam.

A big gamble

How high are the expectations for Henderson in the Netherlands?

The expectations for Henderson are very much mixed. As stated, many believe that the Englishman will provide the experience and stability that Ajax desperately need and that his arrival is the first step towards recovery.

However, many people also believe that Henderson is already over the hill and that he is not worth the money.

Jordan Henderson, Pro Shots

Jordan Henderson, ProShots

Even though Ajax didn’t have to pay a transfer fee, his salary will take a huge toll on Ajax’s finances. In fact, one of the main tasks Sven Mislintat, who was fired on 24 September, got when he was appointed as director of football last year, was decreasing the wage bill.

Henderson obviously does not fit that plan at all.

Moreover, many of the critics also point out that Henderson had already been in decline during his time at Liverpool. The Reds obviously use a lot of data in their decision making and analysis in 2021 showed that extending the contract of the midfielder back then was a bad idea.

Now, many critics believe that the hype around him is mainly due to people remembering him as the Liverpool player he was in his prime. However, those critics argue that that player is already long gone.

Centre of attention

Do you personally see him being a success at Ajax?

I am a bit sceptical.

Henderson is obviously a class player and him not being fast enough for the Premier League is in my opinion not indicative of how he will fare in the Eredivisie, as it's a much slower league.

However, he has always been a player with other stars around him. At Liverpool, he made players like Salah, Mané and Firmino play better. At Ajax, he is the star player instead of being a 'servant' to the stars around him. I'm curious to see how he handles being the one who teammates look at when a moment of magic is required.

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