January 19 – The lucrative Saudi league has lost one of its high-profile players after England midfielder Jordan Henderson unexpectedly quit and returned to Europe to sign for Ajax.
Henderson terminated his contract after six months at Al-Ettifaq for whom he had signed a three-year deal – on a reported £700,000 a week – after 12 years at Liverpool.
“I’m sad to say that I will be leaving Al Ettifaq with immediate effect. It wasn’t an easy decision but one that I feel is best for me and my family,” Henderson said on X.
“I want to take this opportunity to thank the club and the fans for all the support during my time. I really felt the love from day one. I’ll keep watching & hoping for your success. Good luck for the future.”
With former Liverpool and England captain Steven Gerrard as coach, Henderson made 17 league appearances for the Saudi club but switched to Ajax despite the Dutch powerhouse suffering its worst season in years.
Al-Ettifaq said they had “mutually agreed” to terminate the contract “with immediate effect”.
“The decision follows an amicable conclusion to the relationship with the player,” the Saudi team added.
Henderson’s lucrative switch to Saudi Arabia was widely criticised as the 33-year-old has long been a supporter of the LGBTQ+ community.
Homosexuality is illegal in the country but although there was no indication that Henderson was returning to Europe because of any perceived hypocrisy, Saad Allazeez, Vice Chairman and interim CEO of the SPL said, tellingly: “Sometimes despite best efforts people don’t always adjust or settle and that can impact performances and lead to frustrations for all.”
Ajax is certainly somewhat of an interesting choice, however, given the 36-times Dutch champions, who have not finished outside the top three since 2006, are fifth in the Eredivisie, 23 points behind leaders PSV Eindhoven. In Europe they have dropped into the Europa Conference League after finishing third in their Europa League group.
“We wanted an experienced midfielder with leadership qualities… Jordan Henderson is that type of player,” said Ajax coach John van ‘t Schip explained.
“His arrival means a huge enhancement for our squad. Both on and off the pitch, a football player of this calibre is important for our many young players.”
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