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Jordan Henderson: Former Liverpool midfielder insists finances not behind decision to join Ajax

Jordan Henderson joined Ajax on a free transfer when Al Ettifaq agreed to end his three-year deal after just six months; reports suggested Henderson would have faced a large tax bill on his Saudi Arabian earnings if he had returned to the Premier League

Image: Jordan Henderson has signed a two-and-a-half-year deal with Ajax

Jordan Henderson says financial considerations had nothing to do with his decision to join Ajax instead of returning to the Premier League.

Henderson finalised his switch to the Dutch side on Thursday when Saudi Arabian club Al Ettifaq agreed to end his three-year contract after just six months.

Reports suggested the former Liverpool captain would have faced a large tax bill on his earnings in Saudi Arabia if he had signed for a Premier League club but he insisted the move to Ajax was purely a sporting decision.

"Don't believe what you read in the press," Henderson said. "It had nothing to do with anything but football.

"I felt it was the perfect opportunity to come to such a huge club and showcase what I've tried to do my whole life - to dedicate myself to football.

"The welcome here has been incredible and I'm overwhelmed to be given the opportunity at a great football club and to repay the faith shown in me.

"Over the next two-and-a-half years, I will give everything to get the club back on track and to be as successful as possible."

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Reports have also claimed a desire to play more competitive football and retain his place in the England squad for this summer's Euros played a part in Henderson's desire to leave Saudi Arabia.

Henderson revealed: "I'm in contact with Gareth [Southgate] regularly, as I have been many years, and that hasn't changed.

"Like he is with all the players, you know how close he is to the lads. He understands the situation."

England midfielder Jordan Henderson arrives for a news conference in Amsterdam, Netherlands, Friday, Jan. 19, 2024. The lucrative Saudi soccer league lost one of its high-profile players when Henderson quit Al-Ettifaq to sign for struggling Dutch powerhouse Ajax. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)
Image: Henderson was presented to the Dutch media at a press conference on Friday

'I learned a lot in Saudi Arabia - but it didn't work out'

Henderson spoke of his ambitions to help "grow" football in Saudi Arabia when he joined Al Ettifaq but departs amid reports he struggled to adapt to the climate and culture in the country.

However, the 33-year-old refused to criticise the Saudi Pro League or Al Ettifaq - who are coached by Steven Gerrard - saying: "I think a lot of people would like me to sit here and criticise the Saudi League and everything that went along with it but that's not something I'm going to do.

"I have full respect for the league, for the club, and for the people over there. They made me feel welcome but unfortunately, sometimes these things don't work out in football and in life."

When asked whether he regretted joining Al Ettifaq, Henderson said: "Obviously it's a big decision with how long I'd been out in Saudi but they fully respected it and I'm thankful it was handled in the right way. Everybody shook hands and we moved on.

Jordan Henderson has been criticised for his move to Al Ettifaq
Image: Henderson spent just six months in Saudi Arabia

"In life, if you want to call them regrets or mistakes, you call them that. But they're only mistakes if you don't learn from them.

"I learned a lot over there. I haven't got a bad word to say about anybody over there. I'll have friends I'll speak to forever.

"There were positives to come out of it. In the end, it didn't turn out the way we both wanted it but we ended it on great terms."

Henderson reiterates apology to those 'offended' by Saudi move

Henderson's decision to move to Saudi Arabia, where same-sex relationships are illegal, attracted scrutiny given his outspoken support of the LGBTQ+ community during his time in England, with the midfielder again apologising to those "offended" by his transfer.

"If anyone was offended or feels as though I upset them, that's on me," Henderson said. "That was my decision and I apologise for that.

"It was never my intention. I just want to look forward now and concentrate on being the best player I can for Ajax.

"My beliefs have never changed and never will. Again, I can only apologise if people feel let down."

Klopp: How do people dare to question Henderson?

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Jurgen Klopp shared his thoughts on former Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson after the midfielder left Saudi Arabian side Al Ettifaq to join Ajax

Speaking ahead of Liverpool's Premier League fixture at Bournemouth on Sunday - live on Sky Sports - Jurgen Klopp questioned how people "dare" to criticise Henderson.

"No, I didn't speak to him, but I'm happy for him because it looks like he's happy," said the Liverpool manager. "That's the most important thing to me.

"People are really critical with Hendo about the move, first there and now he is coming back. I don't know how we dare, always judging these kind of things.

"We have one life and we have to make decisions. Sometimes our decisions are perfect and sometimes it feels different after you made them.

"It was 100 per cent an interesting experience. I spoke to him and 99 per cent of the football stuff was fine. It was the start of something, with many things to develop in the future, but he was never really critical.

"But he thought it was better for him and his family to come back to Europe and Ajax are a sensational club."

Follow the January transfer window

The winter transfer window is now open and will close at 11pm in England and midnight in Scotland on Thursday 1 February, 2024.

To ensure harmonisation with the major leagues in Europe, the closing dates were set following discussions with the EFL, DFL, Serie A, LaLiga, and LFP, who will all close their summer and winter windows on 1 September and 1 February respectively.

Keep up to date with all the latest transfer news and rumours in our dedicated Transfer Centre blog on Sky Sports' digital platforms, while you can also catch up with the ins, outs and analysis on Sky Sports News, including daily transfer shows, and listen to our Transfer Talk podcast.

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