With Jordan Henderson reportedly “desperate” to push through a transfer away from Saudi Arabia just six months after moving, Liverpool could profit again.
When Henderson departed Liverpool for Saudi Pro League side Al-Ettifaq in a £12 million deal, the long-serving captain was widely regarded to have made a big mistake.
Though his role under Jurgen Klopp had diminished, with the writing on the wall on day one of pre-season training alongside Dominik Szoboszlai, moving to Saudi Arabia was seen as an abandonment of his morals.
A misguided interview with The Athletic in September saw Henderson dismiss claims he had moved for money, and insist his aim was to “achieve something special.”
But six months on from his decision to “build a club and build a league” in the Middle East, he is now “desperate” to leave.
Why does he want to leave?
Rumsby explains that Henderson is “struggling to settle” in Saudi Arabia, with Hughes citing the “heat and humidity of the playing conditions” and “less than inspiring” attendances as key issues.
Al-Ettifaq played in front of just 696 people in a 1-0 loss to Al Riyadh in October, while the club’s average attendance this season is 7,854 spectators.
Where could he go?
Joyce reports that the 33-year-old is “keen to return to the Premier League or elsewhere in Europe.”
Juventus have also been touted with a temporary move for Man City‘s Kalvin Phillips, so could feasibly pivot to Henderson.
What do Al Ettifaq think?
It was initially claimed that Al-Ettifaq would hold firm, after Henderson signed a two-year contract with an option for a further 12 months in July.
But Joyce reports that “it would be unlikely a departure would be blocked if the player made clear he wanted to leave.”
Journalist Ben Jacobs has claimed that Al-Ettifaq would only sell if they received an “incredible offer,” while a loan would require Henderson’s wages – a tax-free £350,000 a week in Saudi Arabia – to be “100 percent covered by any suitor.”
How could Liverpool profit?
Interestingly, Jacobs adds that “should a permanent offer be accepted, Liverpool will take a sell-on percentage, and quite a healthy one.”
Whether any club in Europe would be willing to pay a sizeable fee for a player of Henderson’s age and ability is, of course, doubtful.
How could it cost Henderson?
While Henderson’s £350,000-a-week contract was signed on a tax-free basis, that is only held up if he stays in Saudi Arabia for at least two years.
Hughes claims he could therefore be eligible to pay “around £7 million” in taxes if he were to leave early, but this figure is debatable and could be closer to the £1.8 million mark.
What about anyone else?
It seemed obvious to all but the talent themselves that the bottom would fall out at some stage when it came to the Saudi Pro League’s revamp.
The salaries on offer were clearly too lucrative to pass up, but Henderson may not be the only former Liverpool player hoping to depart early due to other issues.
Meanwhile, Henderson’s manager Steven Gerrard could even be on the verge of the sack, with assistant Ian Foster having already left to take over at Plymouth and Al-Ettifaq winning just one of their last 12 games.