Looking more like a military leader or a government official, Steven Gerrard’s slide to a meme character continued with his attempts at explaining his move to Saudi Arabia.
Having initially turned down a move to the Middle East, Gerrard was eventually lured to the riches of Al-Ettifaq – who aren’t one of the four state-owned clubs in the Saudi Pro League.
In taking the job, Gerrard becomes the club’s 10th manager in the last six years.
Gerrard’s move from Rangers, being sacked at Aston Villa, and now joining the Saudi revolution is certainly an interesting career choice, but he claims he is still “very ambitious.”
“I think my message to the supporters is that I am really happy and I am really excited,” Gerrard said.
“I am a coach that is very ambitious, that [who] likes to work tirelessly to make sure the team is very competitive.
“If we’re all together and we all stay aligned I am sure we can achieve our goals together.”
Seemingly, the Saudi league and its riches aren’t going away any time soon, and Gerrard’s side will no doubt pluck some big names from Europe this summer.
“I think the league will continue to grow and evolve and I think with fantastic support from the government and the ministers,” Gerrard added.
“We all have ambitions to grow and evolve and make it one of the best leagues in the world.
“I think the club already has an outstanding culture and fantastic support. I want to be part of that culture from the playing side and try to improve and build relationships with the people above me and hopefully together we can be the support the team needs to get better and move up the table.”
In explaining his move to Saudi, Gerrard said: “I think there were a lot of reasons for me wanting to join the football club and I think the club has a lot of good people that represent the club from the board down.
“When I went to Saudi I got a real family feeling. It made me actually feel welcomed. There are three things I always consider in order – it needs to be right for my family first and foremost. We have to be excited and motivated by the challenge.”
Indeed, the move itself has seen Amnesty UK’s Economic Affairs Director Peter Frankental speak on Gerrard, saying:
“The gathering stampede from players and coaches to join Saudi Arabian football clubs on lucrative contracts is more evidence that Saudi sportswashing has gone into overdrive.
“Across multiple sports and multiple formats, the Saudi state is deploying huge sums to sportswash its heavily tarnished image and deflect attention from an appalling human rights record.
“Under Mohammed bin Salman, there’s been a frightening human rights crackdown, with peaceful activists jailed, a staggering 196 people executed last year alone, and there’s still been no justice after the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.
“The Saudi strategy on football appears to be to keep ratcheting up the big-name deals to create the momentum for a bid to host the World Cup in 2030.
“Fifa must apply stringent human rights risk assessments to any Saudi bid for 2030, but we also need to see FIFA, star signings and high-profile managers like Steven Gerrard speaking out about Saudi Arabia’s atrocious human rights record.”
Amnesty International also spoke when Cristiano Ronaldo first moved to Saudi.
Gerrard spoke of his excitement about the move and sharing a lot of things in common: “I think the football project needs to be ambitious, it needs to be for the right reasons in terms of the challenge and the remit and then of course you need to feel secure with the contract, but this comes at the very end.
“So it was a combination of reasons. I am extremely excited, I am happy and I can’t wait to start. I can’t wait to meet all the supporters and all the players. But the people I have met so far who represent Ettifaq have been absolutely outstanding and I think we share a lot of things in common.”