Henderson’s Saudi Struggle: Regret Looms Large

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Navigating the Saudi Saga: Jordan Henderson’s Midfield Misstep

Jordan Henderson’s high-profile transfer to Al Ettifaq last summer was a move that shocked the football world. The former Liverpool captain and England international was lured to the Saudi Pro League for a new challenge and, of course, a substantial financial package. In an original piece by Oliver Kay in The Athletic, the story behind Henderson’s decision and the subsequent disillusionment is detailed meticulously. As we dissect Kay’s insights, it’s evident that what glittered like gold has quickly lost its sheen for Henderson.

Henderson’s Initial Optimism

“I wanted something that would excite me,” Henderson explained to The Athletic. His words reflect a genuine desire for a fresh challenge, a sentiment echoed in his initial bullish attitude despite the cultural and lifestyle shifts. Kay quotes Henderson’s surprising admissions about the “totally different” aspects of life in Saudi Arabia but also his steadfast “No regrets” stance from a Channel 4 News interview. This juxtaposition of excitement and unexpected reality sets the stage for the unfolding drama.

Disenchantment in the Desert

However, the honeymoon was short-lived. Kay reveals a growing sense of disillusionment within Henderson. The stark contrast between the Premier League and the Saudi Pro League, both in terms of quality and fan engagement, is starkly highlighted. With attendances at Al Ettifaq’s games dwindling, the reality of playing in less vibrant stadiums became evident. Kay poignantly notes, “But his sense of disillusionment has deepened considerably.” It’s a telling shift from optimism to a yearning for a return to familiar European football grounds.

The Lure and the Regret

Kay doesn’t shy away from discussing the elephant in the room – the financial incentives. Henderson’s move, while wrapped in the guise of a new challenge, was undeniably influenced by the lucrative offer from Al Ettifaq. Yet, as Kay outlines, the allure of money has seemingly come at the cost of professional satisfaction and ethical considerations, given the country’s stance on LGBTQ+ rights, an issue close to Henderson’s advocacy. The regret is palpable as Henderson seeks an early exit, a significant climbdown from his initial defense of the move.

Impact on Career and Legacy

The decision to move to Saudi Arabia has ramifications beyond just the current season. Kay speculates on the potential impact on Henderson’s place in the England squad with Euro 2024 on the horizon. The competition for midfield spots is fierce, and Henderson’s absence from top-tier football could jeopardize his selection. It’s a poignant reminder of the delicate balance between financial gain and career progression.


Oliver Kay’s article paints a vivid picture of a footballer caught between ambition and reality. Henderson’s journey is a cautionary tale of the allure of financial riches versus the passion and prestige of European football. As we reflect on his situation, it’s a stark reminder of the complex decisions athletes face and the unpredictable nature of football careers.

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