There is not a Verona encounter with AC Milan that wouldn’t draw the attention of Italophile Joe Jordan, who had a life-changing experiences there playing for both in the 1980s. There will be heaps of added intrigue for the storied Scotland striker when the pair meet tomorrow night, though, thanks to the presence of countryman Liam Henderson in the home line-up.
Jordan, inset, believes that the 23-year-old midfielder is destined for international recognition as a result of his ability to carve out a successful career in the Mediterranean, helping Verona earn promotion to Serie A last season following a move from Bari.
Henderson’s assimilation extends to the former Celtic player now speaking fluent Italian. That feat proved more arduous early on for Jordan, who has nothing but the highest regard for how the midfielder has embraced life where he still watches football and holidays, the latter in part owed to his daughter having settled in Milan.
“I’ve seen him [Henderson] play and went a couple of times last year,” said the 67-year-old. “The move has worked out well for him. Verona is a beautiful city – the most beautiful city I have ever seen – and I think he is living on the lake in Peschiera [del Garda]. You don’t need to worry about Liam, he will be enjoying himself. He’s got it all out there and it’s a good club and he’s started well with a draw and a win.
“It will be a big learning curve for Liam now he’s a Serie A player. It is fantastic. It doesn’t happen as often as it did in my day but if you go there and face the challenge head on you will grow up quickly.
“It says a lot about his technique and his character that he’s thrived in Italy and he is now a Serie A player. But survival will be seen as success for them this season.
“Without a doubt, Liam Henderson is a future Scotland international. Definitely, with the challenge he has taken on by going to Italy. There are talented players out there but the difficulty for them – especially in England – is getting game time. If you don’t play, as is happening to the top English players at big clubs, they have to go and find somewhere to play and prove to the coach of the national team they can do it.
“Liam has taken the right route. It’s not easy but it’s the right one. In Italy you have to be a good professional first and foremost but it’s clear he is a good, driven pro. If he had gone to Bari and he was not then he would not have got a second club in Italy.”