As Sunderland midfielder Jordan Henderson moves closer to a big money transfer to Liverpool, Kris Heneage ponders which party has the best of the deal
Not for the first time, the football clubs of the North East are selling off their prized silver. In the 1980s it was Paul Gascoigne, Chris Waddle, and Peter Beardsley flying the nest. This time around itÃ¢ÂÂs Adam Johnson, Andy Carroll and now Jordan Henderson winging their way towards the North West.
Adam Johnson moved to Manchester City in January 2010 for a reported ÃÂ£8 million. Had he not been in the final year of his Middlesbrough contract, that price may have been somewhere nearer those charged for Henderson & Carroll.
CarrollÃ¢ÂÂs move to Liverpool was arguably the most surprising. Having completed just under six months of his first season as a Premier League regular, and with one England cap to his name, he moved for a record breaking ÃÂ£35 million on the final day of the January transfer window. Given he had played so little top flight football, the move appeared a risky one.
In contrast, Jordan Henderson has established himself in the English top flight over the past two years, playing 70 Premier League matches for the Black Cats in two seasons - almost as many as Carroll and Johnson had mustered between them prior to their big moves. While he may not quite have grabbed as many headlines on and off the pitch, he has been a key player for the Stadium of Light side and will arrive at Anfield with a decent degree of experience under his belt and an England cap - won in a friendly against France last autumn - to his name.
So what will Henderson bring to LiverpoolÃ¢ÂÂs midfield should he get the chance? Good passing for one. As recently as Sunday, when England U21Ã¢ÂÂs faced Norway at St Mary's, he impressed with his range of long and short passing, with a delightful chipped pass to Ryan Bertrand helping to create EnglandÃ¢ÂÂs opener. He can also cross the ball, which proved particularly useful on the occasions Steve Bruce deployed him in a wider position on the right of midfield.
Take, for example, Asamoah GyanÃ¢ÂÂs first goal for the Black Cats away at Wigan back in September. While the Ghanian's finish was superb, the goal was all about Henderson's pin-point cross from deep on the right, over the head of Wigan defender Steve Gohouri and in to the middle of the penalty area.
A solid work ethic and impressive fitness levels mean he does not tire easily, although while he is always willing to 'put in a shift', his inability to tackle has been somewhat of a sore point for many Sunderland fans.
His lack of goals has been a concern for both fans and manager alike. However that criticism can be leveled at his team-mates in the middle of the park just as readily. Four goals in two seasons over fifty appearances is not the form of a World Class midfielder, but thatÃ¢ÂÂs not what Liverpool are buying just yet. They are buying potential in the same way they did when they splashed out on Andy Carrol.
After all, Henderson is only 20 years old. Few players are the finished article at such a tender age, and Henderson will need to continue working hard to reach the levels many are touting him for. His decision making at times leaves a lot to be desired, his set pieces are indifferent and he can go missing in games.
In many ways this looks like being good business for both parties. Liverpool gain a gifted and hard-working young midfielder with the potential to develop further and become a key member of their side for a decade to come.
The player himself moves to a club with senior players of a far higher quality, especially in midfield. Henderson will benefit from working closely with the likes of Steven Gerrard, Raul Meireles, and to a lesser extent Lucas Leiva, from whom he can continue to learn his trade as he attempts to maximise his early potential and promise. He'll also be under the tutelage of Kenny Dalglish, who in just six months back in the Anfield dugout has helped several young players find their feet in the Premier League, and will fancy his chances of taking Henderson to the next level.
One would also imagine the move will do his international prospects little harm. Fabio CapelloÃ¢ÂÂs claims that Darren BentÃ¢ÂÂs move to Aston Villa enhanced his England prospects wonÃ¢ÂÂt have gone unnoticed by Henderson and his representatives.
From Sunderland's point of view, should the money be spent wisely, this could ultimately prove a very shrewd piece of business from the club. The impending cash injection looks likely to help them add some much needed experience and defensive reinforcements to, what is by Premier League standards quite a small squad, while the loss of Henderson looks likely to be less damaging than JanuaryÃ¢ÂÂs sale of Darren Bent. The transfer also goes some way to highlight the impressive work at the Academy Of Light that holds both Henderson and Jack Colback as exciting recent midfield graduates.
So now for Sunderland fans begins the most agonizing part of a good player leaving, waiting to see who will replace him.