Jordan Henderson has signed for Dutch side Ajax; the move comes just six months after a high-profile move to Al Etiffaq; Henderson cut ties with the Saudi Pro League club earlier this week; it had been widely reported the former Liverpool captain was struggling to settle in Saudi Arabia
Thursday 18 January 2024 21:34, UK
Jordan Henderson has completed a move to Ajax on a two-and-half-year deal, just six months after signing for Al Etiffaq.
The Saudi Pro League side "mutually agreed" to terminate Henderson's contract with immediate effect allowing the England international to move to the Dutch side on a free transfer.
The ex-Liverpool captain had joined Al Ettifaq in July on a three-year deal but after an "amicable conclusion" Henderson has been allowed to leave after playing just 19 times for the Saudi side.
The 33-year-old, who will now play in the Netherlands, said on social media: "I'm sad to say that I will be leaving Al Ettifaq with immediate effect. It wasn't an easy decision but one that I feel is best for me and my family.
"I want to take this opportunity to thank the club & the fans for all the support during my time. I really felt the love from day one. I'll keep watching & hoping for your success. Good luck for the future."
Meanwhile, Al Ettifaq club president Samer Al Misehal said said: "Firstly, the club would like to thank Jordan for his efforts and wish him the best for his future endeavours.
"We are always respectful of our players. The club and Jordan believe this quick decision, without any delay or further distraction, has been made for both the overall good of the club and for Jordan."
Henderson will wear the number six shirt at Ajax, who have endured a difficult season so far as they sit fifth in the Eredvisie, 23 points behind leaders PSV Eindhoven.
Ajax boss John van 't Schip said: "We wanted an experienced midfielder with leadership qualities. Partially due to injuries in the team, we were looking for someone who could step in immediately. Jordan Henderson is that type of player.
"His arrival means a huge enhancement for our squad. Both on and off the pitch, a football player of this calibre is important for our many young players.
"He's an English international player and has won the Champions League and many other prizes with Liverpool.
"I am happy he's here, and I think it's very good for our club that he's an Ajacied from today onwards."
Saudi Pro League vice-chairman Saad Allazeez said it was "a shame" that Henderson's time at Al Ettifaq had to be cut short but "no one is to blame."
Henderson is the first major name to leave the Saudi Pro League after clubs made close to 100 signings in a £750m spending spree last summer.
He said: "This is all just part of football, all across the world and life, across all careers. Sometimes despite best efforts people don't always adjust or settle and that can impact performances and lead to frustrations for all. Jordan is a good guy and it's a shame that things didn't work out for him, but he'd be the first to admit that full support was given to him and respect shown. So everyone tried and no one is to blame.
"Looking ahead we are very positive and expect more good players to come in. But, of course, some will move on too. That comes with being a top league, especially when you consider squads are capped. So, we'd expect the flow of talent to go both ways. But overall, we are very happy at the progress and growth in just half a season. Firm foundations have been laid for future strength."
Sky Sports News' chief reporter Kaveh Solhekol:
"It depends how you look at it. A lot of people will be saying he's coming back with his tail between his legs, he should never have gone there in the first place. He was accused of being a hypocrite.
"He was accused of only going there for the money. He was accused of letting down the LGBTQ+ community. We've got to be a bit careful before we start to criticise people because we don't know the full story.
"The bottom line is that last summer, Jordan Henderson thought the best decision for him and his family was for him to move to Saudi Arabia.
"Fast forward six months later, he thinks the best decision for him is to leave Saudi Arabia and come back to Europe. Obviously, it's been a hugely controversial move. We all know it hasn't worked out.
"But as far as he is concerned, he will be happy that his Saudi Arabian adventure is over and he's back playing at a higher level in European football.
"One of the really important things for him is to keep his place in the England squad for the Euros this summer."
Is this the first sign of cracks in the Saudi project?
"It's a very good question and it's certainly something people will be talking about. But I do feel this is an isolated case.
"The Saudi Pro League is already the No 1 league in Asia. The people running the league want to make it one of the best in the world. If you look at the attendances, a lot has been made of the fact that the average attendance that Henderson was playing in front of at Al Ettifaq was around 7,000.
"In one game he played in, there was only around 600-700 people there. But attendances are growing in the Saudi Pro League and are up 24 per cent on last season.
"The average attendance is about 8,000 and some games you even get 50,000 people at the games as well. So, it is a mixed picture. As with anywhere, you can get some players who are unhappy and want to leave when moves don't work out, but on the whole the people behind the Saudi Pro League are still pretty pleased with how everything has gone.
"One thing that is sometimes overlooked as I was in Saudi Arabia last month, is that some of the players you speak to - especially the Muslim players - will tell you that they love living in Saudi Arabia.
"They say it's very important for them to be living and working in Saudi Arabia, which is the birthplace of Islam. It's a mixed picture. Some players are happy, some aren't - and that's the same picture across the world."
The winter transfer window is now open and will close at 11pm in England and midnight in Scotland on Thursday 1 February, 2024.
To ensure harmonisation with the major leagues in Europe, the closing dates were set following discussions with the EFL, DFL, Serie A, LaLiga, and LFP, who will all close their summer and winter windows on 1 September and 1 February respectively
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