Jordan Henderson sorry for Saudi Arabia move: It was a mistake

England midfielder Jordan Henderson arrives for a news conference in Amsterdam, Netherlands
Jordan Henderson has completed his move to Ajax from Al-Ettifaq - AP Photo/Peter Dejong

Jordan Henderson apologised for any hurt felt by the LBGT community over his move to Saudi Arabia outfit Al-Ettifaq at his Ajax welcome press conference in Amsterdam.

Henderson moved to Al-Ettifaq from Liverpool on a three-year contract last summer, and his decision to go to Saudi Arabia, where same-sex relationships are illegal, caused controversy in the UK as he had previously been a high-profile supporter of LGBTQ+ rights.

“If any people from that community feel let down or hurt I apologise,” said Henderson.

“If anyone was offended or feel as though I upset them, that’s on me, that was my decision and I apologise for that. It was never my intention.

“I just want to look forward now and concentrate on being the best player I can for Ajax. My beliefs have never changed and never will. Again I can only apologise if people feel let down.”

Jordan Henderson of Al-Ettifaq reacts during the Saudi Pro League match between Al-Ettifaq and Damak at Prince Mohamed bin Fahd Stadium on September 02, 2023 in Ad Dammam, Saudi Arabia
Jordan Henderson of Al-Ettifaq reacts during the Saudi Pro League match between Al-Ettifaq and Damak at Prince Mohamed bin Fahd Stadium on September 02, 2023 in Ad Dammam, Saudi Arabia

Henderson added: “If you want to call it a mistake, you can.”

Henderson, 33, has signed a two-and-a-half year deal with the Eredivisie club after failing to settle at Saudi side Al-Ettifaq, who he joined six months ago and he described his move to Ajax as the “perfect opportunity” after cutting short his spell in Saudi Arabia.

”(Ajax) is one of the biggest clubs in the world, the biggest club in Holland and I felt as though it’s a great opportunity for me personally to come to a huge club, to try and help this club go forward and be as successful as possible,” he said.

Henderson denied that there was a financial element to his decision to move to a Dutch club rather than return to England, and said he wanted to help Ajax - struggling by their standards in fifth place - return to the top.

“Don’t believe what you read in the press,” he said. “It had nothing to do with anything but football. I felt it was the perfect opportunity to come to such a huge club and showcase what I’ve tried to do my whole life - to dedicate myself to football.

“The welcome here has been incredible and I’m overwhelmed to be given the opportunity at a great football club and to repay the faith shown in me.

“Over the next two-and-a-half years I will give everything to get the club back on track and to be as successful as possible.”

Klopp hits out at Henderson ditractors

Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp says his former captain Jordan Henderson has been too harshly judged for his career decisions since moving to and then quitting Saudi Arabian football.

Henderson took flak for joining the Saudi Pro League because of his previous high profile support of the LGBTQ community, who felt let down by his decision to move to a country with such openly discriminatory policies.

Now having left Al-Ettifaq for Ajax after six months, Henderson has been mocked for the haste with which he sought an exit.

“I didn’t speak to him [since he left], but I’m happy for him as it looks like he is happy and that is the most important thing to me,” said Klopp.

“From time to time I forget I actually don’t read these kinds of stories – but when it’s not about us I read a bit. People are really critical of Hendo about the move, first there and now coming back. I don’t know how we dare, always judging these kind of things. We have one life and we have to make decisions and sometimes our decisions are perfect in the first case and sometimes it is different after you make them.”

Klopp said he was in contact with Henderson while he was playing in Saudi, suggesting it is only when experiencing a different country and culture that you can fully understand what is like.

“He was there and it was 100 percent an interesting experience. I spoke to him and 99 per cent of football things there were absolutely fine,” said Klopp.

“It is the start of something and it is not like it is here – imagine it would immediately be like that. There are many things to develop in the future but [he was] never really critical. Then he thought it is better for him and the family to come back to Europe and now he is at Ajax Amsterdam, a sensational club in a difficult moment.

“Ajax always played the best football when combining the real talent that is always there with some experience, and that is obviously now the role for Hendo. He is part of that experienced group and from fifth place in Holland you can make steps and it’s all positive.”

Klopp dismissed the idea that the Ajax move represents an undignified descent for Henderson as he seeks to prove he can still feature for England and this summer’s European championships.

Klopp added: “It’s an experience. Only in England do people think: ‘Why do they go abroad?’

“He is going to Holland where he can enjoy his football again, definitely. The family will feel wonderful because the city is absolutely outstanding. I am very happy for him and will definitely talk to him in these few days.”

Klopp, meanwhile, is anxiously awaiting further news on Mohamed Salah’s fitness after he suffered a hamstring injury playing for Egypt in the Africa Cup of Nations.

“We don’t know anything. I spoke with him last night. They are doing further assessments and then we will know more,” Klopp added.

“In the moment it was a shock. He felt it and we all know how rarely Mo needs to go off so there was definitely something. I don’t have any more information right now.

“We will see [if Liverpool medical staff need to travel to Africa]. It depends on what the diagnosis is. They will do an ultrasound and an MRI and then we will know what it is and what Egypt plans. It’s too early.”