Henderson highlights Liverpool progress without Suarez & Coutinho

Jordan Henderson believes Anfield returns for Barcelona stars Luis Suarez and Philippe Coutinho highlight how far Liverpool have come since being forced to part with prized assets.

The Reds reluctantly agreed to the sales of two South Americans in the summer of 2014 and winter transfer window of 2018, with a Uruguayan striker and Brazilian playmaker trading Merseyside for Catalunya.

Retaining the qualities of Suarez and Coutinho would have been the obvious preference, but Liverpool have rebuilt without them to become serious contenders for Premier League and Champions League crowns under the guidance of Jurgen Klopp.

Club captain Henderson told the Reds’ official matchday programme of a reunion with two familiar faces in the second leg of a European semi-final on Tuesday: “There’s no room for sentiment in football and particularly in contests that mean as much as this one, but it will be great to see Luis Suarez and Phil Coutinho back at Anfield.

“I have no idea if either will start the game or not, but they’ll be with our visitors and I’m sure for them the emotion of coming back here will be strong, especially as it’s the first time both of them will have played here against Liverpool since leaving the club.

“Luis and Phil are friends as well as ex-teammates. Personally speaking, I learned a lot from both when I was lucky enough to share a dressing room with them. Clearly both are very different personalities on the pitch, but both are winners and two of the best footballers on the planet.

“Off the pitch they are actually very similar. Family is everything to them and their partners and children are some of the best people you could ever wish to meet. But on the pitch they have something in common: both are world class.

“When a player decides they want to go and do something else I can understand why the supporters of the club that they’re leaving might feel a little disappointed, and as a team-mate I was disappointed when both left. But I think we can all respect that people have their own lives to live and their own decisions to make.

Jordan Henderson Liverpool Newcastle Premier League 2019

“Despite being good friends, I hope both are devastated when the game finishes because we are through and they are out. But beyond the game itself I really do hope Luis and Phil can take a moment to stop and appreciate being back at a club they did so much to help when they played here.

“In a funny way, seeing both back at Anfield tonight in Barca shirts sums up where we are as a club in this moment and the progress we are making. We face them as opponents in a Champions League semi-final. It proves that when players leave a club it’s critical that you build on their legacy and keep moving forward.

“This team and this club is moving in the right direction and we are now at a point where world-class players see this place as a destination. You arrive at this point thanks to the hard work and dedication of many different types of people. Luis and Phil played their part in that along with many others.

“Hopefully they’ll leave remembering why Anfield is so special, but not because they’ll leave with a Barca win. They’ll see a club that is back at Europe’s top table and one that hopefully has another big chapter to come in this season’s story.”

Henderson’s hopes of dashing the Champions League dreams of Suarez and Coutinho rest on Liverpool producing an inspired showing in a tie that they currently trail 3-0 on aggregate.

Klopp’s side have it all to do if they are to reach back-to-back finals in Europe, with their cause being hindered by the untimely absences of star forwards Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino.