Jordan Henderson’s work in Saudi Arabia is done, apparently. His claimed desire to grow the game in a non-traditional market while just maybe expanding the hearts and minds of those who live there has ended, and far sooner than anyone could ever have imagined when he moved to the Saudi Pro League last summer.
Six months after cashing in on his Liverpool legacy, the 33-year-old has reportedly agreed a termination of his Al-Etiffaq contract that will allow him to sign for Ajax in the Netherlands, losing out on lucrative future contract payments in Saudi but at least avoiding the higher tax bill that would have resulted had he returned to England.
“We can all bury our heads in the sand and criticise different cultures and different countries from afar,” Henderson said shortly after joining Al-Etiffaq. “But then nothing is going to happen. Nothing is going to change. Having someone with those views and values in Saudi Arabia is only a positive thing.”
On the pitch, Steven Gerrard-managed Al-Etiffaq are in eighth, a position back of where they were last season before bringing in the ex-Red manager and spending big to sign Henderson and a slew of other fading European stars including Jack Hendry, Demarai Gray, Moussa Dembele, Gini Wijnaldum, and Henderson.
Off the pitch, one imagines Henderson’s impact on the human rights abusing petrostate that he didn’t even live in—he preferred to set his family up in neighbouring Bahrain and commute in—has been even less. But at least he’s also made a decent bit more for his past six months than he would have with the Reds.
He also opens himself up to further criticism, given his announcement video for Al-Etiffaq cast him as a player and person who runs towards new challenges. Instead now he’s running away from Saudi Arabia, having failed to settle while his hopes for playing for England at the Euros have faded in the desert.