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Jordan Henderson & Roberto Firmino Reportedly Want Out of Saudi Arabia

Liverpool saw three veteran stars leave for the Saudi league last summer. Two of them want out after six months.

Al Ahliv Al Ettifaq: Saudi Pro League Photo by Yasser Bakhsh/Getty Images

It’s easy, perhaps, for those on the outside to say that somebody should have known better. But Jordan Henderson and Roberto Firmino really should have known better.

Liverpool saw three veteran stars follow the money to Saudi Arabia’s upstart domestic sportswashing project last summer, with former captain Jordan Henderson, false nine Roberto Firmino, and holding midfielder Fabinho all tempted by its call.

Of the three, Henderson always seemed the most puzzling given the player had built his career and personal brand around being the socially conscious leader of Liverpool Football Club.

Abandoning that personal brand and choosing to become a well compensated face for a repressive absolute monarchy embarked on a project to burnish their image at home and abroad through football rather than taking a page out of James Milner’s book and accepting a small step down while remaining in a top European league surprised many.

Now, he wants out. So too, reportedly, does Roberto Firmino.

Of the trio, only Fabinho’s move to the dessert nation appears to have gone as the player might have hoped and planned.

In both Henderson and Firmino’s cases, it appears the players weren’t quite as ready to leave high level football behind for a well paid semi-retirement, and in Firmino’s case a lack of playing time has contributed to his desire to depart Al-Ahli, where he has exclusively been used as a substitute since November.

For Henderson, playing time for Steven Gerrard’s middling Al-Ettifaq has come easy but there are growing concerns that despite England manager Gareth Southgate’s promises he is on the verge of dropping out of contention for the national team.

Of the two, Firmino’s club Al-Ahli is said to be happy to negotiate a departure while Al-Ettifaq are not as they paid a £12M transfer fee last summer for Henderson after believing—perhaps due to discussions with the player’s camp—he could be had on a free.

One imagines finding a club willing to pay any kind of a fee this window for Henderson could prove difficult, and if no surprise suitor appears he could be forced to spend at least six more months being very well paid to finish mid-table in the Saudi league and possibly miss next summer’s Euros.

Given how utterly predictable an ending that would be, we’ll be playing the world’s tiniest violin for him and the piles of money he’ll earn in the meantime if that’s how it pans out.

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