While quite a few high profile footballers have made the move to Saudi Arabia in recent months, few of them received the type of backlash that was directed at Jordan Henderson after his switch to Al Ettifaq.
You can understand why that was the case. The midfielder was a vocal supporter of LGBTQ+ causes during his time as Liverpool captain, engaging heavily with that community and doing his best to highlight their cause in a public forum.
To go from that to playing in a country where homosexuality is outlawed is a remarkable contrast.
Of course, many felt that the move was simply down to money. There were reports suggesting that Henderson was set to earn in the region of £700,000 per week in the Middle East. In a sense, it was said that he had sold out his morales for a larger payday.
Jordan Henderson has now given a wide ranging interview to claim this was not the case. However, it has only served to heap further criticism on his decision.
Jordan Henderson criticised over interview with The Athletic
In an interview with The Athletic published this morning, Jordan Henderson made a number of claims about his move to Saudi Arabia.
Among them, he said that his move to the country was not motivated by money, and that he had felt unwanted at Liverpool after a conversation with manager Jurgen Klopp.
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...
People will see this club come with loads of money and he’s just gone, “Yeah, I’m going.” When in reality that just wasn’t the case at all. People can believe me or not, but in my life and my career, money has never been a motivation. Ever.
Of course, the claim that money was not a motivating factor in this transfer is something that many will find hard to believe, even if he says that the wages he is earning are nowhere near the amount reported in the media.
When it comes to criticism directed at Henderson by the LGBTQ+ community, it is something he said he understands.
I can understand the frustration. I can understand the anger. I get it. All I can say around that is that I’m sorry that they feel like that. My intention was never, ever to hurt anyone. My intention has always been to help causes and communities where I felt like they had asked for my help.
You can read the interview in full here.
Jordan Henderson would go on to say his views on the matter had not changed, but he also had to 'respect the culture and religion' of the country where he now played his football.
Those are words that have rung hollow for many.
While the player himself may say his view remain unchanged, his willingness to champion that cause in public has now been altered dramatically. Reading this particular interview, it is difficult to think that he has not completely sold out when it comes to giving up on what were said to be strong beliefs in order to appease his new employer.
These comments, along with others in which he seemed to brush away criticisms of Qatar and their labour issues, have been widely panned.
Jordan Henderson has massively undermined people who genuinely believe in and campaign for the causes he briefly borrowed. Much better to be quiet now. Or admit it’s just his job, his career, which is fine. But to be still preaching about “respect” and educating others is 🤮
— Barney Ronay (@barneyronay) September 5, 2023
Great interview by the lads
Henderson's responses beyond belief
Amount to: it's good that someone with his beliefs plays there but he can't change anything
They were shown things in Qatar were bad but then the experience we had was differenthttps://t.co/d23SqPCij4
— Miguel Delaney (@MiguelDelaney) September 5, 2023
Not really sure why Henderson has done this interview from his own PR perspective. Wishy washy nonsense on his part. Either own it and admit the money was too good to turn down or just stay quiet, surely? https://t.co/YGXgHFf4Oy
— Tim Stillman (@Stillmanator) September 5, 2023
I don't think that Henderson interview could've been any worse.
— Sam McGuire (@SamMcGuire90) September 5, 2023
Reading through this and the main takeaway is how stunningly naive Henderson is.
'We heard Qatar was bad but then we went and met workers and they all said it was fine and it looked nice.'
Come on now. https://t.co/bzqRtxVk3N
— Lewis (@LGAmbrose) September 5, 2023
This is such a good interview. It is painful to read because his answers aren't very good. Jordan Henderson has sold out his morals for money, it is as simple as that. https://t.co/QT2hGHllhe
— Joey D'Urso (@josephmdurso) September 5, 2023
I know the atmosphere in that game is (rightly) going to be hostile to England players already, but if you're going to Hampden Park a week today, be good and let Jordan Henderson know it's not just social media opinions that are against him. pic.twitter.com/wtoInNG0At
— Grace Robertson 🏳️⚧️ (@GraceOnFootball) September 5, 2023
Jordan Henderson's PR manager checking how the interview went pic.twitter.com/Dh7j0gU536
— Beav 🏳️🌈🏳️⚧️ (@__Beav) September 5, 2023
Jordan Henderson has not come out of that interview well. Arguably it sounds worse. Wilfully naive, like Westwood and McDowell with Liv. I mean, come on mate. pic.twitter.com/DKJhelQKjV
— Jay C0yle 🏳️⚧️ (@JPierreCoyle) September 5, 2023
While the general public can never been certain on the motivations behind Jordan Henderson's move to Saudi Arabia, it is clear his public image has now been permanently changed.
Regardless of his claims, that is something he will have to accept moving forward.