After 12 years as a Liverpool player, club captain Jordan Henderson has confirmed that he has left the club to sign a lucrative deal with Saudi Pro-League side Al-Ettifaq. Henderson is joining his predecessor Steven Gerrard in the Arab state, ending one of the most successful spells by any Reds captain.
The 33-year-old released a farewell message online, shortly after being filmed training with his new teammates in Croatia. The move has come in for criticism from many quarters, with some saying Jordan has undermined his previous pro-LGBTQ+ stance and support for the Rainbow Laces campaign. Homosexuality is outlawed in Saudi Arabia and can be punishable by death.
On the latest episode of our Journo Insight Show, we asked experienced LFC journalist Neil Jones for his take on the deal.
“BOBBY FIRMINO: BEST IN THE WORLD” DOCUMENTARY | EPISODE 1
“I’ve always admired the way he’s conducted himself in interviews, in club media. He’s always impressed me, but there’s a line in his thing where he said, ‘From the day I was given the armband, I made sure I conducted myself like a Liverpool captain.’ I think probably the only time that he hasn’t is in the last few weeks.
“I think this process could’ve been handled differently by all parties and at least been a little bit more smooth. It just chips away at that sheen of what a model professional he’s been, what a great captain he’s been.
“I’ve got friends who are very much in the camp: ‘Good luck to him, I don’t hold anything against him, he can go what he wants, look after his family, no problem.’ That’s their prerogative.
“But there is – and you can’t deny it – there is a sadness, and something lost in the way that he’s departed Liverpool after 12 years and so many huge moments.
“I think some of the supporters that maybe have had a perfect opinion of him or a very, very high opinion of him – there is a risk that some of them have reduced that, and that is a shame.
“He’s had a huge impact on Liverpool and absolutely when he comes back, there will be some – and again, that’s their prerogative – who can’t really look past the moral issue and the hypocrisy, and the not delivering on his promise.
“I think the last line of his thing was ‘I will always be a Red,’ and I think he obviously will always retain huge affection. I think he will have agonised over this decision. Personally, I wouldn’t have done it. I wouldn’t have advised him to do it, but it’s done now, and on we go.”
‘HE WILL DO EVERYTHING TO BE SUCCESSFUL’ – Liverpool Target Romeo Lavia’s Former Manager
Jordan Henderson has seriously tarnished his legacy as a Liverpool captain. Even were he not moving to Saudi Arabia, his reaction to the possibility of reduced playing time is not the reaction that should be expected of a Liverpool captain. He has left his club shorn of experience in midfield with the start of the new season less than two weeks away. Players such as James Milner and Fernandinho at Manchester City have shown the value of having an experienced name guide younger players into the team and still perform at a high level. Liverpool’s recent history with injuries means that Jordan was likely to feature heavily had he seen out his contract.
The former captain has also irreparably damaged his reputation amongst the LGBTQ+ community, who he has publicly championed on many occasions. Former Premier League midfielder Thomas Hitzlsperger – who came out as gay in 2014 – sent a withering tweet when the news was confirmed.
‘I did believe for a while that his support for the [rainbow emoji] community would be genuine. Silly me.’
Those holding on to hope that Henderson may be able to change attitudes from within Saudi received a harsh dose of reality when his Al-Ettifaq unveiling video removed the colour from photos of him wearing the captain’s armband. In some of the photos, this armband was rainbow-coloured in solidarity with the LGBTQ+ community.
LFC LGBTQ+ fan group Kop Outs released a similarly damning statement:
‘Kop Outs doubt & question if @JHenderson was ever an actual ally. We are deeply disappointed that he is choosing to work as part of a sportswashing operation, attempting to distract from a regime where women & LGBT+ people are oppressed, & that regularly tops the world death sentence table.’
Jordan leaves a bona fide Liverpool legend and is amongst the club’s greatest-ever captains. It is such as shame that his exit has left a sour taste in the mouth of many of its fans.