Jordan Henderson has given a revelatory interview to The Athletic in which he opened up about his reasons for leaving Liverpool during the summer.
The long-serving former Reds captain departed for Saudi Pro League club Al Ettifaq in a transfer which saw him widely condemned for moving to a country where homosexuality is illegal, despite him previously being an outspoken advocate for LGBTQ+ rights.
The 33-year-old has now outlined that he felt unwanted by the Anfield hierarchy and feared that he’d struggle for game-time under Jurgen Klopp, which in turn prompted him to cut his ties with LFC after 12 years on Merseyside.
Henderson explained: “There were a few things that sent alarm bells ringing. I’ve got a very good relationship with Jurgen. He was very honest with me.
“I won’t go into detail about the conversation because it’s private, but it put me in a position where I knew that I wasn’t going to be playing as much. I knew there were going to be new players coming in my position.
“If I’m not playing, as anybody will know, especially the manager, that can be quite difficult for me and especially when I’ve been at a club for so long, I’ve captained the team for so long. Especially when England’s a big thing for me. You’ve got the Euros coming up.
“Then there was an approach from Al-Ettifaq to the club to see if it would be possible for me to go there. The reaction from the club again wasn’t to say no.
“At that moment I felt as though my value or the want for me to stay, with the manager and within the club, maybe it had shifted. I knew that time would come at some point. I didn’t think it would be now. And I had to accept that.”
Henderson added: “If one of those people said to me, ‘Now we want you to stay’, then we wouldn’t be having this conversation. And I have to then think about what’s next for me in my career.
“Now, that’s not to say that they forced me out of the club or they were saying they wanted me to leave but at no point did I feel wanted by the club or anyone to stay.”
From Henderson’s perspective, it’s understandable why he thought the time was right to move on from Liverpool if he felt underappreciated by senior figures at Anfield.
This is a man who captained the club during a glorious era which yielded success in every major competition in which the Reds competed except the Europa League, and who organised a fund among Premier League skippers to support frontline NHS workers when the COVID pandemic struck in 2020.
He also had his international status to consider, and having turned 33 in June, it’s quite plausible that Euro 2024 next summer represents his last chance to play for England at a major tournament.
However, it’s a massive shame that he left Liverpool so abruptly and duly tarnished his legacy in the eyes of many for his choice of destination, given the oppressive laws regarding homosexuality in Saudi Arabia.
Henderson will probably fail to win back the trust of many over his move to Al Ettifaq, but ultimately it was his decision and he was aware of the consequences that it could entail.
It’ll be impossible to get away from that shadow, but it’s also important to recognise his fantastic contribution towards LFC during his 12 years at Anfield, and he deserves to be remembered as a tremendous captain who gave us excellent service on the pitch.