Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson has refuted suggestions that the upcoming World Cup will be the last of his career.
After ITV Sport put it to him that his third World Cup would ‘probably’ be his last, Henderson wasn’t having it.
“Oh wow! Are you chucking that out there, yeah?” smiled the Liverpool midfielder. “I’ve seen a lot of 36-year-olds play in World Cups, so no reason why I couldn’t!”
Good on you, Hendo! It’s clear that the 32-year-old wasn’t kidding, either. Displaying the commitment we’ve come to expect from him at Liverpool though, Henderson did admit to playing every World Cup game like it’s his last.
“To be honest, you never know when your last World Cup is. Even if you’re twenty-one, twenty-six, whatever age you are, you never quite know because they don’t come around that often. Every time I’ve played in a World Cup, I’ve treated it like it’s my last and this one will be no different,” he said.
Henderson backing himself, but new generation ready to takeover
It would be quite the surprise if Henderson were to pull this off. Now thirty-two, he has long-since lost his place in Gareth Southgate’s starting XI.
Of course, you never know what can happen in football and Southgate is perhaps unlikely to be in charge in 2026.
But whoever comes in would probably be more likely to focus on bringing through England’s promising youth.
The Three Lions now have a pool of talent available that just wasn’t there five or six years ago. As the money pumped into their youth infrastructure starts to now reap its rewards, this is likely to have accelerated even further in four years time.
As a result, it’s hard to see a veteran like Henderson being able to make a case for himself. He may be contracted to Liverpool until 2025, but he’s unlikely to retain a key on-pitch status until even then.
Instead, the likes of Jude Bellingham and Declan Rice will still only be twenty-three and twenty-seven respectively. Hardly veterans, they’ll likely be ushering in a new generation of England midfielders.
With exactly half of the England squad set to their World Cup debuts in Qatar, it just goes to show that this cycle is relentless.
Seen through that lens, it’s credit to Henderson that this will be his third such tournament. Given his drive and his professionalism, anything is possible. But the smart money says that this tournament will almost certainly be his last. Prove us wrong, Hendo.