Liverpool hero contract was terminated after £12m move that didn't benefit anyone

-Credit: (Image: Photo by Jeroen van den Berg/Soccrates/Getty Images)
-Credit: (Image: Photo by Jeroen van den Berg/Soccrates/Getty Images)

In 2019, Jordan Henderson captained his Liverpool side to Champions League glory. The following year, he would lead the team to their first Premier League title in 30 years.

But just three years later, the Sunderland-born player would leave Anfield for Saudi Arabia. It’s fair to say this wasn’t the smartest move for the largely intelligent player.

Ex-Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp had warned Henderson before the 2023-24 season that his game time was likely to be reduced. Alexis Mac Allister and Dominik Szoboszlai had been brought in to strengthen the new midfield, and Henderson wasn’t part of that plan. In the end, the midfielder did what many older and more experienced players were doing; go to Saudi Arabia.

READ MORE: Mohamed Salah shows Liverpool exactly where his future lies with first major decision of new era

READ MORE: Transfer plan, Klopp promise - Slot's priority as Liverpool boss gets to work

Al Ettifaq swooped him up for £12m in July of last year. He would be in familiar company with another previous Liverpool captain and now manager of the Saudi club, Steven Gerrard. Henderson would also be comfortable knowing he was on a reported £700,000 a week.

Not only did this move come with a large sum of money, but it also came with a large amount of criticism and hypocrisy. Henderson was a consistent vocal supporter for the LGBTQ+ community across his time as a player. Now, he was accepting a big money deal to move to a country where homosexuality is illegal and to, realistically, keep his lips sealed about it.

Henderson would go on to make 19 appearances for the club, grabbing himself five assists. Unfortunately, these games were often played in front of crowds of less than a thousand people. Even with the big cheques coming in every week, the midfielder couldn't handle it anymore and made it clear he wanted to leave. A player known for his grit and ‘I’ll prove you wrong’ attitude, he had given up rather quickly.

Not only was he now risking his reputation as a player, but his position in the England squad would come under pressure as well. Following a supposed mutual agreement, Al Ettifaq terminated Henderson’s contract.

The player then moved to Ajax, a Dutch and European powerhouse, only, this Ajax was different. The Dutch side had spent a good amount of time in the relegation zone at the start of the season, climbing out to finish fifth, 35 points off the top.

On his move back to Europe, Henderson had admitted about his Saudi tenure, “sometimes these things don’t work.” The move to the Dutch side also came with a big slash to his salary, bringing him down to a reported £350,000 a week. Still an unfathomable amount of money.

Transferring to a struggling Ajax side could be seen as a wise move. It gives two big names in European football the chance to build together and get them back to where they once were. For Henderson that would be more difficult as, now being 34, it would be hard to imagine the Champions League winner ever returning to the kind of form that won him that trophy.

The ex-Liverpool captain's time at Ajax so far has been rocky. A chance to perform against a Premier League side again wasn’t taken well as Aston Villa comfortably beat the Dutch team 4-0. A muscle injury in March had him sidelined for a month and, overall, he only played nine out of the 16 league games available. All of this caused England manager Gareth Southgate to believe that "he just hasn’t been able to get to the intensity [we need] in the games since then.” Henderson was getting picked during the start of his Saudi League venture but was booed at Wembley in October when they faced Australia.

And during this turbulent time, Henderson would be forgiven pondering on the ‘what if.’

What if he had stayed after that conversation with Klopp? He was bound to still play a good number of games. Not only did he leave behind a history of trophies with the further chance of winning more; he also left without saying goodbye to Anfield. He wasn’t able to receive the send-off that fellow captain Gerrard received, or the recent departure of Klopp.

Whatever his feelings are about the situation, we likely will never know, but it isn’t until you leave Liverpool do you realise that hearing 60,000 fans singing ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ is truly priceless.