Jordan Henderson completes controversial move to Saudi Arabian side Al-Ettifaq
Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson has completed his controversial move to Saudi Arabian side Al-Ettifaq.
The 33-year-old, who posted a farewell message to Reds fans on Wednesday, brought to an end a 12-year stay at Anfield in which he won every major trophy by finalising a deal with reported wages of up to £700,000-a-week.
Liverpool are due to receive an initial £12million from the Saudi Pro League club, who posted on social media: “A leader. A warrior. We’re simply thrilled to have him. Henderson is ETTIFAQI.”
Henderson was seen training with his new team-mates at a camp in Croatia in a fan video posted on social media, which will have caused Liverpool some embarrassment even though it was hastily deleted.
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp paid tribute to his departing captain.
“I know it was a really, really tough decision for Hendo and I was around or with him all the way,” he told the club’s website.
“It’s sad, absolutely strange, because he is the only captain I had here at Liverpool, but I think it is exciting for him as well.
“We will miss him, without a shadow of a doubt, that’s clear – as a man and as a player. But, as I said, that’s football.”
The England international will be reunited with former team-mate Steven Gerrard who is Al-Ettifaq manager.
However, his move had attracted criticism due to his long-time support of LGBT+ issues and the Premier League’s Rainbow Laces campaign.
Homosexuality is illegal and punishable by death in Saudi Arabia, while the state stands accused of a host of other abuses including placing harsh restrictions on women’s rights and the right to political protest.
“Jordan Henderson is of course free to play for whoever he chooses, but we would urge him to examine Saudi Arabia’s human rights record and be prepared to speak out about human rights violations in the country,” Amnesty’s UK economic affairs director Peter Frankental told the PA news agency last week.
Pride in Football, a network of LGBT+ fan groups, said in a statement: “When you see someone who has been an ally so publicly transfer to a club in a country where LGBT+ people are attacked and imprisoned, it is disappointing.
“Good luck in Saudi Arabia Jordan, but you have lost the respect of so many people who valued you and trusted you.”
Henderson joins a growing list of players moving to Saudi Arabia.
However, one player who will not be heading to the Middle East is Paris St-Germain’s Kylian Mbappe, who reportedly refused to meet Al-Hilal officials in Paris on Wednesday after his club accepted what would be a world-record transfer fee of £259million.
PSG believe Mbappe, who has 12 months left on his contract, has already agreed a free transfer to Real Madrid but their willingness to listen to offers for the 24-year-old has led to speculation linking him to the Premier League.
However, the financial implications of such a move would be beyond almost all the clubs in the top flight.