Jordan Henderson agrees to terminate Saudi contract ahead of Ajax move

Jordan Henderson vents his frustration while playing for Al Ettifaq
Jordan Henderson (right) has struggled to settle in Saudi Arabia - Yasser Bakhsh/Getty Images

Jordan Henderson is flying to Europe today to complete a deal to join Ajax, having agreed with the Saudi Pro League club Al Ettifaq a mutual cancellation of the three-year contract they signed in the summer.

The former Liverpool captain has left the club after just six months in Saudi, as first reported this morning by The Athletic. The meeting to agree a deal with Ajax is likely to take place in Britain. There is currently an agreement in principle between Henderson representatives and the Dutch club. Henderson agreed a deal with Al Ettifaq on Tuesday morning that he could leave, with a mutual cancellation of contracts.

It ends a turbulent time in his career in which he faced criticism, especially from gay rights groups, for joining a club in a country where homosexuality is illegal. Henderson was paid around £350,000-a-week to play for the club, managed by his former team-mate Steven Gerrard.

Henderson came to realise that his time in Saudi was likely to have a serious impact on his selection for England for the European Championship in the summer. Ajax are currently fifth in the Eredivisie and 23 points behind leaders PSV Eindhoven after a dismal start to the season.

Henderson, 33, was in Abu Dhabi this week training with his Al Ettifaq team-mates on a season break camp. He will fly directly back to Europe from there. It has been an unusual six months for Henderson, previously very sure-footed in a career that saw him go from Sunderland to Liverpool where he established himself as a Premier League and Champions League-winning captain despite early misgivings about his future at the club.

While it did not take long to realise he had made a mistake in moving to Saudi, Henderson was always concerned about his relationship with Gerrard for whom he was a marquee signing. The two men would appear to have reached some accommodation.

Al Ettifaq are currently eighth in the 18-team Saudi Pro League. They have won only one of the last nine. The league stopped on Dec 28 for a break and does not return until the mid-point of next month.

Henderson joins Ajax at one of the low points in the history of one of the greatest clubs in the history of European football. They are already on their fourth manager of the season, the last three of them having been caretakers following the sacking of Maurice Steijn in October. When they were soundly beaten by Brighton 2-0 in the Europa League in Sussex later that month they had former player Hedwiges Maduro in charge. Currently, club legend Johnny van’t Schip is steering the ship until the end of the season.

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