Liverpool have confirmed that their captain Jordan Henderson has joined Saudi Arabian side Al Ettifaq after 12 years and 492 appearances at Anfield.
A change in captain and the departure of Liverpool’s No. 14 was not anticipated at the start of the summer, but it has now become a reality.
Only days after returning to the club for pre-season training, Henderson’s future looked destined to join Steven Gerrard’s Al Ettifaq after being offered a bumper contract.
The club were not prepared to let the 33-year-old leave without adequate compensation and the deal agreed is worth £12 million, plus add-ons.
A LFC club statement reads: “Everybody at Liverpool Football Club wishes to place on record their thanks and gratitude for everything Jordan Henderson did for the club during his 12 years as a Red.”
Henderson departs just over two weeks before the start of the new season, ensuring a dip into the market looms – a bid has been made for Romeo Lavia – with Fabinho also to swap Merseyside for Saudi Arabia this summer.
The official confirmation comes after Henderson posted his own farewell message to fans and had already been spotted taking part in his first training session with Gerrard’s side the day earlier.
The 33-year-old has lifted more trophies than any other captain in Liverpool history, having won the Premier League, Champions League, FA Cup, League Cup, Super Cup and Club World Cup.
He has been a model professional and has undertaken his responsibilities on and off the field with class, which is why this move to Saudi Arabia will disappoint many and taint his legacy.
Henderson has been an advocate and ally for the LGBTQ+ community at Liverpool and beyond, but he will not be ignorant of the fact that in Saudi Arabia, homosexuality is illegal.
Kop Outs, an organisation in support of Liverpool’s LGBT+ fans, have been vocal on social media that they would be “appalled and concerned” to see anyone consider working under such a regime – but it has now come to fruition.
The No. 14 joined the club in 2011 from Sunderland and has made 492 appearances, placing him 15th in the club’s all-time appearance list.
Virgil van Dijk is expected to replace Henderson as the Reds’ permanent first-team captain.