JORDAN HENDERSON is poised to become the first England star to take the money and run to the Saudi Pro League.
GettyJordan Henderson has agreed a stunning £108m deal to join Al-Ettifaq[/caption]
GettyHenderson will become the first England star to move to Saudi Arabia[/caption]
The Three Lions midfielder’s £700,000-a-week salary is more than treble his Anfield wages as he joins a growing number of stars to accept Saudi mega-deals.
Kop boss Jurgen Klopp admitted: “In the end, all of these decisions are made by me.
“And because I respect the players a lot, it’s usually with consent. It was in this case, and it is all fine.”
Henderson, 33, is set to leave the club’s German training camp today and will shortly be followed to Saudi by Anfield pal Fabinho, 29, with Liverpool close to agreeing a £40m fee with Al-Ittihad for the Brazilian.
Klopp refused to elaborate on the deals, adding: “We don’t have to talk about it. There will be a moment where we probably have to talk about it, but it’s not now.”
The German boss had pleaded with Henderson to see out the last two years of his deal, but the player was ditched from the squad that beat Bundesliga II club Karlsruher 4-2 last night.
He told Klopp he believed his game time would be limited next season following the arrivals of Dominik Szoboszlai, who cost £60m from RB Leipzig, and World Cup winner Alexis Mac Allister, who arrived from Brighton for £40m.
Hendo was preparing to reunite with ex-Kop skipper Steven Gerrard at Al-Ettifaq.
Henderson will link up with former Liverpool pal Steven Gerrard
EPAJurgen Klopp admits he was unable to persuade Henderson to stay[/caption]
And his imminent exit as one of English football’s biggest names is a major slap in the face to the club he has served for 12 years and the Premier League.
Such is the amount of cash being thrown around by the Saudis that Prem bosses will fear yet more of their major players will go.
Indeed, Henderson is also gambling on something more precious than Saudi gold — the chance to win Euro 2024 with England in Germany.
He will be the first England international to make the controversial move to a country which has turned the world of football upside down inside just a few weeks.
And if Henderson is a success and is able to continue to nail down a spot in Gareth Southgate’s Three Lions squad, then other England stars in their prime will follow.
If Henderson’s England career continues then other Three Lions stars could follow him
But this is the bit where Henderson is risking his place at the Euros.
England’s next games are in Ukraine and Scotland in September, while they play Australia and Italy at home the following month.
If Henderson returns from Saudi Arabia for the internationals and is only at about 80 per cent where he should be in terms of sharpness, then he could live to regret this decision.
With 77 England caps, he remains a valuable member of Southgate’s team and is still a starter in midfield alongside Jude Bellingham and Declan Rice.
Henderson enjoys a close relationship with Southgate and it is impossible to imagine him making this decision without the Three Lions manager’s blessing.
While the Saudi Pro League — which has an average crowd of 10,000 — is attracting some A-listers, the standard is considered to be inferior and still not as strong as the Championship.
Had Henderson decided to move to Leeds or Leicester this summer, he would have lost his place in the England squad.
Naturally, the money is mind-boggling.
He had two years left on his Reds contract but will see his wages rocket to £36million-a-year for the next three seasons.
His claim, like former Kop team-mate Bobby Firmino who has also headed to Saudi Arabia, is that the amounts being offered are life changing.
But banking £10m a year at Liverpool is pretty life changing.
Henderson is one of the good guys but, for many, his image after this will be tarnished.
NO MORE MR NICE GUY
In 2021, he was awarded an MBE for his fund-raising efforts during Covid.
Henderson was an architect of the Players Together initiative that encouraged professional footballers to donate to the NHS.
When England’s black players suffered disgusting racial abuse in Bulgaria in 2019, it was Henderson who faced the media to condemn a large section of fans who behaved so disgracefully.
And lastly — but most crucially considering we are talking about Saudi Arabia — Henderson has quite rightly found himself under fire from Liverpool’s LGBT+ fans group Kop Outs.
Understandably, they are “appalled and concerned” that the club’s captain, who has done so much work for their cause, is moving to a country where being homosexual is illegal.
Yet Henderson is not the first sportsman to put cash before his principles.
And he will certainly not be the last.
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