The veteran 77-cap England midfielder spent 12 years in total at Anfield, including eight as captain, after joining from Sunderland in 2011, becoming a hugely popular and indispensable figure as he led the Reds to their first top-flight title for 30 years and plenty of other major silverware including the Champions League, FA Cup, two League Cups, the Super Cup and Club World Cup.
However, that relationship came to an end back in July, when Henderson departed Merseyside to complete a transfer to Saudi Arabian club Al-Ettifaq worth £12million plus add-ons, signing a lucrative contract and reuniting with new boss and ex-Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard.
The loss of Henderson was compounded by Brazilian team-mate Fabinho’s own subsequent switch to the Saudi Pro League with Al-Ittihad, intensifying Liverpool’s need for further midfield recruits after early summer deals for Alexis Mac Allister and Dominik Szoboszlai and the exits on free transfers of James Milner, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Naby Keita plus injuries to the likes of Thiago Alcantara, Curtis Jones and Stefan Bajcetic.
While Liverpool missed out on a raft of players over the window including Jude Bellingham, Moises Caicedo and Romeo Lavia, they eventually completed that overdue rebuild with the arrival of Japan skipper Wataru Endo from Stuttgart and a deadline day move for Bayern Munich’s Ryan Gravenberch.
Reds manager Jurgen Klopp said that he was surprised by the exit of Henderson and stated how much the club would miss their long-serving leader.
However, in a wide-ranging interview with The Athletic, Henderson said “alarm bells” were sent ringing after an honest and private summer conversation with Klopp in which he says it was made clear that he would not be playing as much as the club planned to bring in new faces.
Discussing the interest from Al-Ettifaq, Henderson said he felt that both his value and Liverpool’s desire for him to stay had “shifted” - something he found difficult to come to terms with after a summer in which he says he worked intensely to ensure that he was in the best possible shape for the new Premier League campaign.
“The reaction from the club again wasn’t to say no,” he said. “At that moment I felt as though my value or the want for me to stay, with the manager and within the club, maybe it had shifted. I knew that time would come at some point. I didn’t think it would be now. And I had to accept that.
“I’ve got very good relationships with Jurgen, with the owners of the club. That’ll be forever. What we’ve achieved together in the past 12 years has been incredible. But at the same time, it was hard for me to take that.”
Henderson went on to claim that he would have remained at Liverpool had Klopp or the owners simply told him that they wanted him to stay put.
“If one of those people said to me, “Now we want you to stay”, then we wouldn’t be having this conversation,” he said when asked if there was a part of him that wanted Liverpool to fight to keep him at Anfield.
“And I have to then think about what’s next for me in my career. Now, that’s not to say that they forced me out of the club or they were saying they wanted me to leave but at no point did I feel wanted by the club or anyone to stay.”