Exclusive: Inside of Jordan Henderson’s Al-Ettifaq exit

Exclusive: Inside of Jordan Henderson’s Al-Ettifaq exit

When Al-Ettifaq signed Jordan Henderson in July 2023 it was a statement of intent. To poach the Liverpool captain was a coup for not just Ettifaq but the wider Saudi Pro League.

It wasn’t an effortless deal to pull off. Ettifaq are not a person of the PIF-managed golf equipment and operate off a modest price range. Moreover, Henderson experienced rejected their initially offer you, and senior figures at Liverpool imagined he’d remain at Anfield appropriate up until eventually the 48 hours prior to he departed.

Driving the Henderson deal was Hatim Al-Misehal, the club’s previous vice-president, who now heads up the club’s sporting committee. His brother, Samer Al-Misehal, is the somewhat new club president and has a important say on signings and approach as nicely.

Hatim performed a critical purpose in convincing Henderson to join. And in a natural way the funds played a section but regardless of some reports, Henderson was not earning £700k-for every-week. Saudi resources insist his wage was £8m-for each-yr, but it would have been tax free experienced he stayed in Saudi for two a long time.

Ettifaq actually pushed hard to signal Henderson on a totally free transfer but inevitably agreed a £4m cost, reduce, club sources declare, than the £12m amount that is broadly reported. Liverpool also inserted a market-on clause.

In the similar window Ettifaq also added Scottish centre-back Jack Hendry from Club Brugge and striker Moussa Dembele from Lyon. Gerrard personally pitched to each of them, but was specially fingers on with Henderson.

The Ettifaq boss, who recently signed a new contract until finally summertime 2027, was also employed directly by Hatim pursuing quite a few Zoom conferences and an in-man or woman interview in Dammam. Gerrard was questioned to make his conclusion really immediately, and even with publicly stating he wouldn’t be going to Saudi, he acknowledged the function a handful of months later on.

Gerrard and Henderson arriving was significantly particular for Hatim due to the fact he’s a self-proclaimed Liverpool enthusiast, who will go to February’s League Cup Ultimate when Jurgen Klopp’s facet choose on Chelsea. He was abruptly rubbing shoulders with Liverpool legends he’d viewed and admired from afar.

Just after accepting Ettifaq’s present and passing his professional medical, Henderson travelled immediately to Croatia final summer season for a pre-season education camp. Then, upon arriving in Dammam he took a whole tour of the club’s facilities. Ettifaq listened to Henderson’s feed-back, and when he requested for enhancements to the fitness center, it was renovated in just 4 times.

Henderson experienced two bases: one in Saudi and one more with his relatives in Bahrain. He struggled to settle on and off the pitch, and even necessary put up-match oxygen just after 1 recreation with summer season temperatures in Saudi reaching 40 levels. But the season started nicely as Ettifaq defeat Al-Nassr in their opening sport and followed this up with an absent victory at Al-Hazm.

Ettifaq went out of their way to enable Henderson acclimatise, but the England midfielder discovered it tricky generating the changeover from morning to evening training and adjusting to the late kick-off moments.

Nonetheless, he was consulted on many key decisions at the club, including the arrival of Everton’s Demarai Gray on deadline day in summer months 2023. Henderson was also a driving drive powering the appointment of Dr Carl Todd as the club’s head of physical treatment.

Just after last summer’s window shut, previous Rangers and Swansea sporting director Mark Allen arrived changing Eelco Schattorie. And Ettifaq added Thomas Spring (head of scouting), John Hill (head of athletics science), Richard Higgins (club physician) and Darren Davies (1st staff coach) whilst much more a short while ago, and just after Henderson remaining, Dean Holden was appointed an Gerrard’s assistant manager.

Previous Charlton boss Holden bought the career following a Zoom and experience-to-experience job interview in London with Allen and Gerrard. They were being impressed by his frankness and eye for element right after becoming asked to analyse an Ettifaq match in true time.

But even with these constructive and ambitious backroom alterations, in the make up to the January window Ettifaq would go on a 9-video game winless run leaving them in mid-table and causing Henderson to concern his potential.

Henderson was also worried about the mid-time crack. Ettifaq’s past sport before it was a one-1 draw with Al-Hazm on December 28 and their up coming match normally takes place on February 15 at Al-Khaleej.

It is understood Henderson feared the gap may possibly hamper his Euro 2024 likelihood. Whilst he was given ensures by England manager Gareth Southgate that he would nevertheless be considered for choice if he remaining Liverpool for Saudi, the sort of ex-teammate Curtis Jones and Chelsea’s Conor Gallagher created him fear his place in the squad this summer time was in jeopardy if he stayed at Ettifaq.

Ettifaq were setting up prolonged-term with Henderson and striving to establish a group close to him. That is why when they figured out, very first via the media, that Henderson was looking at leaving they originally dismissed the stories as rumour. When it was clear Henderson’s likely departure experienced compound to it, they produced it clear if he was to depart he would have to tell the club instantly and encounter to encounter.

Ettifaq only experienced the budget to explore a few or 4 regional signings in January, but if Henderson was to exit it would transform their recruitment system substantially.

With no informing Ettifaq to get started with, Henderson began to investigate solutions. Ajax became a clear frontrunner, but he also approached Leverkusen, who showed very little fascination. There was no immediate make contact with with Newcastle, in spite of solutions, but it is reasonable to say Henderson available himself around quite broadly.

Whereas Tyler Alexander-Adams, the brother of Liverpool star Trent, cut the deal to carry Henderson to Saudi, the 33-calendar year-old did far extra self-illustration this time about.

Henderson realized he experienced to return to a mid-time instruction camp in Abu Dhabi in mid-January and talk to the club in human being. And when he did so, an urgent meeting took position led by Allen and Gerrard. Ettifaq were stunned when Henderson verbally educated them he required to go away.

The club’s stance was that any exit would only come about on their terms – as a financial loan with a charge and one hundred% wage protection, or for a long lasting transfer with a fee near to €20m. No give came from Ajax, who did not want to acquire both tactic. So rather, Henderson agreed to be part of them on a free of charge transfer and terminate his contract with Ettifaq.

Each Gerrard and Allen had been clear: they wished to enable Henderson go if he was unhappy, which manufactured the termination procedure far smoother and amicable.

Henderson agreed to forgo all around £4m in deferred wages (carried out for tax functions) with Saudi sources pointing out this offsets the cost paid for him. And by not owning to shell out Henderson for the second 50 percent of the year, Ettifaq also freed up finances. In addition, Henderson may well immediately owe Ettifaq even more ‘bonuses’ relying on how quite a few appearances he would make for Ajax.

Ettifaq nonetheless confronted a big situation attempting to change Henderson with so tiny time left in the window. Hatim held a a few-hour recruitment assembly with Gerrard and new targets had been decided in light-weight of the cash accessible from Henderson’s departure.

Previous Authentic Madrid midfielder Alvaro Medran joined from Al-Taawoun – a offer the club negotiated in just 24 several hours. And top rated focus on Seko Fofana – who could gain the Africa Cup of Nations with Ivory Coast – was secured on financial loan from Al-Nassr with Ettifaq contributing fifty% of his wages.

Ettifaq had other bold targets, like Everton’s Abdoulaye Doucoure, but the Ministry’s centralised funding staff refused certain possible acquisitions on budgetary grounds. However, Ettifaq were being capable to insert previous Fenerbahce defender Marcel Tisserand and ex-Flamengo attacker Vitinho from Saudi champions Al-Ittihad.

This authorized the club to flip Henderson’s departure into a optimistic on the field and they are now also discovering no matter whether Liverpool’s Thiago Alcantara is intrigued in agreeing a pre-agreement alongside with a number of other suitors.

At the same time as Henderson remaining, Gerrard was handed a new offer well worth around £6m-for every-yr. Ettifaq deliberately announced this at the similar time as Henderson’s exit to make it distinct the club was stable.

Ettifaq’s goal is now to end in the top rated six of the Saudi Pro League. They start the 2nd-fifty percent of the period four points adrift of this location.

Ettifaq also a short while ago opened a new twenty,000-seater stadium and go on to modernise and progress powering the scenes. The Damman-based club are normally unhappy to see Henderson go, but imagine their venture and long-phrase success wasn’t contingent on him by itself. They are doing work difficult powering the scenes to implement a client extended-term system that will lead to eventual and regular qualification to the Asian Champions League – a vital objective specified it will assist draw in both youthful Saudi talent and extra international stars.

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