The English Premier League has always been competitive and popular. Where the fight for supremacy in other leagues is limited to two teams, in the English league the fight is four-way, sometimes more. Even a top-tier team like Liverpool is often outside the top four. England’s star players did not need to leave the stage full of excitement in such a competition.
By playing in their own league, they have written their names on the list of the best in the world. Except for two exceptional examples like David Beckham, and Michael Wayne, those who have gone have played in leagues outside of England at the end of their careers. Most are out of the lampstand then.
England national team coach Gareth Southgate himself spoke about English footballers not playing outside of Eland. Southgate was somewhat concerned about not having the experience of playing in a different team, culture, and environment. This coach raised the question of why English footballers are stuck in their familiar confines with a good amount of salary. Has Jordan Henderson reduced his anxiety to some extent? The vice-captain of the England national team himself has now decided to play outside England.
But the fact that Henderson has chosen a country and club outside of England as his future is likely to add to Southgate’s worries rather than relieve him. The vice-captain of the England team and Liverpool captain has chosen Saudi Pro League club Ittifaq as his destination.
Henderson will get the different style of football that Southgate talked about in Saudi Arabia, and the midfielder will even get a taste of a different lifestyle. But the big question is, why did he have to choose a team that is number seven in a league that was out of discussion a few days ago to get these experiences? But Henderson established himself as an important figure in English football not only on the field but also off the field due to his personality and leadership.
And it’s not like age isn’t on his side either. He turned 33 last June and still has 2 years left on his contract with Liverpool. Yes, it is not a lie that the old debt is lost. But that doesn’t mean he has to choose Saudi football right now. If anyone wants to ask now, Henderson made this decision because of the seven million pound salary per week. But whatever the real reason, Henderson’s decision is expected to have more impact than Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema’s move to Saudi Arabia.
Ronaldo went to Saudi Arabia at the age of 38. The Portuguese star chose this way to end the relationship with Manchester United. And Benzema also went to Saudi Arabia after crossing 35. Real Madrid’s contract with him has also expired. He even said ‘farewell’ to the national team. If desired, the rationale for these two’s decision to go to Saudi Arabia can be found in various ways.
It has already been said that Henderson is no ordinary player. He is also the captain of Liverpool and vice-captain of the England national team. Apart from this, he is also known as a vocal voice against various social injustices and immorality outside of football. He has been seen speaking out several times against anti-homosexuality, discrimination, and injustice. That is why his decision to go to Saudi Arabia disappointed many.
Apart from that, Henderson is highly respected and popular among the players as well. When the Premier League and the PFA needed a leader on and off the field during the coronavirus pandemic, it was Henderson. The Liverpool captain is known to many as the ‘captain’s captain’. Even in Southgate’s team, Henderson has been seen playing a significant role. Even at Euro 2024, Southgate was expected to tap into Henderson’s experience. But the midfielder’s decision to move to Saudi Arabia has now made the whole situation a bit muddier.
Not only Saudi Arabia, Henderson’s choice of club is also being discussed and criticized. Ronaldo’s Al Nasr and Al Ittifaq are not the same at all. Al Nasr has a huge fan base, they were in the title race before Ronaldo arrived. Seven of their players have even played in the World Cup. They are preparing the team with the hope of winning the title in the future. On the other hand, Al Ittifaq finished the season at number 7 last season, with an average attendance of just 5,561. Their biggest star last season was Brazil’s Vitinho and the club did not have a representative at the World Cup.
With Henderson’s Premier League teammates opting for bigger clubs in Saudi Arabia, it is surprising that a player of Henderson’s stature would choose Al Ittifaq. However, in this case, one can talk about Steven Gerrard, who has recently taken over as the coach of Al Ittifaq. Gerrard may have been instrumental in Henderson’s move to Al Ittifa.
While Southgate spoke of generosity towards players moving outside of England, history says otherwise. Glenn Hodell and Chris Wadley were at their best in France, but were in exile in England. Steve McManaman was on the verge of winning the title for Real Madrid but was in the face of controversy over his place in the England team. So by all accounts, Henderson’s danger is likely to increase. He has chosen not just a lower league, but a lower club, which is sure to add to Southgate’s discomfort.